Live events had become a substantial source of revenue for digital publishers. Then, Covid-19 hit. With live events immediately shut down across the country, some publishers saw 20% of their total annual revenue disappear overnight. Now, months into this pandemic, publishers have started to get creative with how they promote and monetize their events. Rather than saying goodbye to live events altogether, more publishers are hosting virtual events that audiences can attend from home.
Just because an event is virtual doesn’t mean it can’t be profitable. Virtual events can drive just as much revenue as in-person events. While the ability to generate sustainable revenue through virtual events alone may still be a few years off, publishers are developing new strategies to monetize online events, like concerts, conferences, and lectures.
Here, we’ve pulled together some examples of our favorite ways of monetizing virtual events that are working for digital publishers in 2020.
The primary way digital publishers make money through events has always been sponsorships, and that hasn’t changed because of the pandemic. Sponsorship opportunities are lucrative because they give advertisers a way to directly connect with the publisher’s core audience. The greater the number of expected attendees, the higher the price a publisher can charge for sponsorship opportunities. Sponsorship packages for virtual events typically include logo placement on all event materials, including on any marketing emails and event landing pages.
2. Ticket Sales
When you host a virtual event, you cast a much wider net for potential attendees. Location or proximity is no longer an issue that prevents people from attending, so you can potentially sell tickets to a much wider group of people. Most publishers charge less to attend virtual events than live events. Some even offer free admission to online guests or existing website subscribers. Virtual events don’t have the same seating capacity limitations as live events, so giving out too many tickets is not usually a problem. Depending on the programming and the structure of the event, it is possible to successfully monetize a virtual event without charging for attendance. For example, The Atlantic revamped its annual Atlantic Festival into a format that lets virtually anyone attend online. Instead of selling 2,000 tickets for as much as $975 a piece, The Atlantic is aiming to attract 1 million attendees to its virtual event for free.
3. Converting Subscribers
Giving people free admittance to your virtual event only pencils out if you have a plan for converting those attendees into subscribers or members. The most straightforward conversion strategy involves email marketing. Publishers can require that attendees enter their email addresses, or other contact information, for admittance to their virtual events. Then, they can remarket to those attendees via email. Breaking news alerts, weekly story recaps, and the occasional subscription offer can all help convert as long as they’re combined with an effective call-to-action.
4. Networking Opportunities
Networking is one of the best parts of live events. Although Covid prevents us from networking in person, you can still set up a portal where event attendees can network virtually. Most virtual event software now includes networking features, making it easy for publishers to create their own online communities. Online networking communities with multiple tiers create additional opportunities for monetization. For example, you can charge attendees extra to send direct messages to fellow attendees or interact via two-way video chat.
5. Subscriber-Only Content
Looking for ways to make your subscription program more valuable? Upload recordings of your virtual events to your website, and make those recordings accessible only to paying subscribers. While some paying subscribers were probably already in attendance, a good portion may not have been able to attend. These subscribers will appreciate the opportunity to watch or listen to the speakers they missed. Recordings can be placed behind paywalls on your website or sent directly to subscribers via email.
6. On-Demand Recordings
Because of scheduling issues, not everyone can make an event the first time around. One way to continue generating revenue from an event that already occurred is by uploading video or audio recordings of the event to an on-demand platform and selling access to the content. Self-serve portals are typically used here, so visitors can pay for access to a certain piece of content. As the publisher, you get to control whether your on-demand content is visible for a certain length of time or whether readers can download the content onto their own devices to watch offline.
Has your publication hosted a virtual event during the pandemic? Let us know how it went and what you learned from the experience.