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Report: 72% of publishers increased virtual events offerings
In search of revenue, media companies are creating lots of new products
Necessity, we’re told, is the mother of invention. And for publishers, the pandemic is testing this theory.
In a report from Brand United, three in four publishers are creating new products—from newsletters to podcasts to virtual events—to try to make up for the hit they’ve taken in ad sales.
At the end of May, Brand United, a marketing organization, surveyed 216 publishers about their response to the pandemic and their thoughts on what the next 12 months might look like.
Despite the very real challenges that publishers are facing in the wake of COVID-19, including an industry-wide decline in advertising revenue, their outlook is largely positive. Just 32% think business conditions will decline within the next three months, compared with 48% who anticipate conditions will stay the same and 20% who expect improvement during that time frame. Looking further out over the next six months, 85% expect either stabilization or improvement of business
For many publishers, the pandemic has forced them to embrace digital in a more comprehensive way. Take Time, for example.
Earlier this week, the 97-year-old publication, announced in a memo that its “digital revenues grew +58% YoY in Q2 and they exceeded print revenues for the first time in our brand’s history.”
And tracking with Brand United’s research, Time also said that it introduced several products in Q2, but perhaps more interestingly, outlined its goals for the remainder of the year:
Establishing Multiple, Recurring Revenue Streams
Evolving TIME’s Video & Streaming Strategy
Increasing TIME’s B2B Deal Sizes
Continuing our Digital Transformation & Launching a B2C App for Consumers
MediaPost reports that Conde Nast, which has been at the center of a storm with Bon Appetit,
says its recent pivot to virtual programming, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has included more than 150 virtual events globally, reaching more than 700,000 consumers at home."
To date, 80% of Condé Nast virtual-event attendees are Gen-Z and millennials, who have spent 650,000 hours engaged in the company’s virtual events.”
The Brand United study found:
With the dramatic drop in live conferences and events to combat the spread of COVID-19, it comes as no surprise that 72% of publishers have increased their virtual events and webinar offerings.
While virtual events are the lowest of hanging fruit for publishers, if done well, they can bring in some incremental revenue. Media companies cannot get away with charging $3,000, the typical(ish) rate for an in-person event, for a virtual event (I’d be amazed if anyone would be willing to pay a tenth of that). The value of events comes from the networking, not the “content.”
And virtual events are only about the content.
That said, a smart publisher can turn the content from a virtual event into a webinar or lead-gen tool. B2B publications tripped into this way before coronavirus hit, but it was generally seen as ‘added value’ for clients. Now that the events business has been washed away, virtual events, which can draw significantly more people than an in-person one, need to be reevaluated.
Publishers have also flooded the inbox with more newsletters, providing readers with more information, but also providing advertisers with more ways to spend money. Everyone from the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Boston Globe to Quartz has introduced coronavirus newsletters.
And as we saw earlier this week, media companies from NBC to Facebook have introduced a bevy of “voting” products; NBC News released a tool (Plan Your Vote) to help voters figure out how to cast ballots at a time when it may not be possible to go to an actual voting booth; Facebook rolled out a tool to help users find “accurate and easy-to-find information about voting wherever they live, helping empower them to hold their elected officials accountable.”
It will be interesting to watch how publishers continue to experiment, as if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 20 years, media companies are not product companies.
Sure, every once in a while a media company will create something resembling a product (remember BuzzFeed’s internet connected hot plate?) But a media company’s muscle is not in pumping out different products, let alone revenue-generating ones that can soften the blow of dried up advertising dollars.
The lesson media companies should be learning right now: you can’t paper over all your deficiencies with Johnny-come-lately products. You need to continually develop not just product, but also processes and policies that enable your company to evolve with the changing nature of the business.
Build your systems; hire smartly; make sure your executives and leadership are flexible in their thinking. If you run your shop with a “either it’s my way or the highway” mentality, which is all too common in media, you’re going to find you can’t attract (or retain) talent.
Even as publishers are fighting for survival, rolling out products at a pretty fast clip to try anything that will help bring in money, they’re also, oddly, optimistic about the future.
According to Brand United, 67 percent of publishers (as of the end of May; of course mindsets probably—hopefully?—have changed since then), expect to return to the office by November.
Publishers have to remain optimistic but it doesn’t mean they have to be delusional.
Perhaps publishers instead should just pick up these Panasonic at-home cubicles for their hard-working staff. Nothing says how diseased our society is than at-home cubicles.
Frank Zappa, “The Torture Never Stops”
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Some interesting links:
Epic Megafight (Tedium)
The NYPD Is Withholding Evidence From Investigations Into Police Abuse (ProPublica)
Q&A: Barstool Sports’ Erika Nardini Sounds Off On Deion Sanders, ESPN (Front Office Sports)
“Journalists will not be center stage”: As political conventions go virtual, the party’s over for the press (Vanity Fair)
Vox Media Agrees To Settle Worker-Exploitation Lawsuits for Millions (Vice)
Unconventional: How news publishers are positioning their virtual convention coverage for audiences and advertisers (Digiday)
ViacomCBS in Talks to Sell Tech Site CNET to Red Ventures (WSJ)