Media Briefing: How publishers are preparing for the return of in-person events
By Tim Peterson
In this week’s Media Briefing, senior reporter Kayleigh Barber talks with publishers about the status of their plans to return to in-person events and how the virtual versions will remain in the mix.
- Welcome back
- Rising COVID cases cloud office return plans
- 3 questions with Dotdash’s Molly Fergus
- The Atlantic’s subscriber slump, publishers’ transgender coverage and more
For the fully vaccinated, in-person events are knocking at the door, ready to be let back into media companies’ calendars and brands’ media budgets. But the in-person return does not mean publishers are walking away from the virtual variety.
The key hits:
- Brands are more than ready to put their once-again-full event budgets to good use and are asking (almost exclusively, some publishers report) for opportunities to be face-to-face with audiences.
- But for publishers who spent the past 15 months reshaping their events businesses to accommodate virtual-only audiences, there are certain engagement tools that they are not ready to part with and new insights that they are eager to put into play at in-person events once they come back around.
- The New York Times, BDG, Complex Networks and Atlas Obscura are four publishers that are all strategizing for the return of in-person events while supplementing that with newly tried and true virtual components to create a hybrid event model.
“Just because the world starts to open up doesn’t mean that the virtual [event] goes away. If anything, it’s now front and center [in creating holistic experiences for engagement]. There is pent-up demand on doing really unique, creative activations or partnerships. That’s where we’re seeing a lot of the conversation [going with brands],” said Edgar Hernandez, CRO of Complex Networks.
Why publishers like virtual events
Scale is one of the greatest strengths of virtual events:
- The New York Times held more than 150 virtual events in 2020, which brought in around 1.5 million viewers from over 120 countries, according to Kate Carrington, acting managing director and head of production and program management for NYT Events. While Carrington would not disclose revenue figures from the past year’s events, she said that all of the sponsors who signed on at the beginning of 2020 for event advertising stayed on for the full amount through some other capacity and the Times’ did not lose any committed events revenue.
- BDG hosted more than 20 virtual events between 2020 and 2021, bringing in more than 50,000 attendees all together. In 2020 specifically, virtual events generated between $7-8 million in revenue, according to CRO Jason Wagenheim.
- Complex Networks brought in more than 700,000 attendees to its first iteration of ComplexLand in 2020 with a total of 3.2 million engaged minutes and had an average of 125,000 people per day for the five-day-long event.
- Atlas Obscura had 40,000 people attend a one-off virtual experience during the pandemic, some of which were ticketed, and more than 4,000 people finished a multi-session virtual course.
For the Times, a subscriber-minded strategy
The New York Times has two in-person events already booked for this remainder of 2021: its DealBook conference, which …read more