Irrespective of the platform media owners operate from, the constant need to innovate, capture an audience, and deliver revenue remains one of the greatest challenges.
In an ever-crowded media environment with a competitive advertising market, the appetite to diversify and uncover new, sustainable revenue streams has never been greater. Eventing is the next frontier for media in South Africa.
In our current highly-competitive economic climate, where media faces declining print circulation and monetisation challenges across digital platforms, it’s essential for media companies to develop other earned streams of revenue. Consumer-focused media – print or digital – already own a unique advantage in having long-standing connections to the communities they serve. They have ‘built-in’ audiences, and own the promotional space to publicise events and attract sponsors.
From the perspective of a media company with legacy titles that already have a very strong footprint in the minds of South Africans, events can deliver fresh revenue opportunities while also playing a meaningful role in sustaining quality journalism.
Although already delivering annual market research, surveys and awards initiatives for various sectors, it was seeing the revenue that international publishers were generating through events that drove Times Media to purchase a specialist events agency, now known as Times Media Events, to extend these established assets thereby creating wider audience reach and advertising opportunities.
Some international publishers are earning as much as 20% of their revenue from events. Last year Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the New York Times, expressed expectations that the title’s events business will develop into a $20 million enterprise. The New York Times has a very tight connection to its audience and the conferences it hosts reflect its diverse international readership, from the International Luxury Conference in Versailles, to Cities for Tomorrow in New York.
Starting with what you know is key. If you’re a media company that knows business and finance, marketing or the youth sector, then build events around those pillars of expertise.
The Financial Times in London is similarly committed to events that cater to its market, hosting as many as 40 conferences in 2016 focused on issues such as Cyber Security, Manufacturing of the Future, among others… and naturally, Finance & Investment.
The revenue potential from hosting events arises from both ticket sales, and corporate sponsorships. The key to attracting sponsorship lies in creating opportunities that bring corporates closer to their target market, while remaining aligned to the principles of their brand. As a publisher with mass reach media assets, it is essential to tap into our own inventory to promote and market events. For many publishers with unsold inventory, promoting events creates an opportunity for sponsors to take advantage where they may not otherwise have a marketing budget to achieve their required reach.
Making the most of opportunities to grow the foothold with an audience is obvious. Internationally, it’s the media houses and publishers like FT.com who are hosting events that attract thought-leaders in debate and conversation about local and international issues. And in South Africa we have the same need for open debate, which is why we’ve leveraged off the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Awards event, and developed it into a mentorship platform with the Leaders on the Move series, as well as a thought leadership conference, The Directors Event.
There are definitely things that can make or break an event and these need to be considered carefully in advance. Considering the ubiquity of content that resides online, it’s essential that every event offers something different that can only be experienced through participation. Media need to make the most of the high level of enthusiasm and loyalty of an audience who are committed to a topic and want to hear from the experts. It’s important that events deliver an opportunity for interaction, questions, and ‘getting up close’. They can be as broad as delivering highly personalised one-on-one mentorships, panel debates, workshops, exhibitions, awards events, and large conferences.
Starting with what you know is key. If you’re a media company that knows business and finance, marketing or the youth sector, then build events around those pillars of expertise. The best way to maintain the credibility of a news title and grow the audience is to ensure unique, expert, relevant, high quality content at every point.
Trevor Ormerod is GM sales and marketing at Times Media Group.
Footnote: Times Media hosts the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies, Sunday Times Top Brands, Sunday Times Generation Next, Sunday Times Literary Awards, Times Media AMARA’s, Future of Media, Financial Mail Annual Adfocus, and Financial Mail Top Analyst Awards, as well as this year’s inaugural FMCG Insights. Times Media Group are relocating to a purpose-built site in Parktown at the end of the year that will include state-of-the-art conference and event facilities.
Image: Sunday Times Generation Next 2015
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