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Digital Publishing Industry

How Local Publishers Use Live Events to Drive Profitability

As local publishers look for new ways to squeeze every last drop of revenue from their publications, live events are becoming a more attractive option.

Most local publishers already have deep ties within the communities they cover, not just with readers, but with small business advertisers and elected officials, as well. Given those relationships, publishers are in an ideal spot to host and sponsor events like conferences, reader meet-and-greets, and even community festivals.

Ticket sales aren’t the only way publishers are generating revenue from live events. Publishers are also selling sponsorships to advertisers and using live events, like newsroom meet-and-greets, as an incentive to encourage readers to join their paid membership programs.

Although publishers can be tight-lipped about revenue, live events are estimated to account for as much as 20% of total revenues for some news outlets. Live events also deepen the relationships between publishers and local business sponsors, who might be more inclined to advertise on the publisher’s website after partnering on an event.

Here are the most popular types of live events for local publishers to host.

1. Conferences

Conferences are the most obvious and common type of live event for publishers to host. From Recode Media’s Code Conference in California to MediaPost’s Publishing Insider Summit in Texas, it’s fair to say that publisher-hosted conferences have gone mainstream.
Despite the ubiquity and success that digital publishers have had in generating revenue through conferences, there are some downsides to be aware of. Smaller local publishers can have difficulty selling out large venues. They might also have trouble managing the logistics of a conference without hiring a team of professionals who’ve hosted conferences in the past.

Conferences can be lucrative for publishers, but we generally recommend that smaller publishers start by hosting some of the other types of live events listed here before they move on to larger conferences.

2. Business Recognition Events

Business recognition events are an excellent way for local publishers to dip their toes into live event hosting, without requiring nearly as many logistical requirements as a conference.

Business recognition events can be held to honor the best places to work, the fastest growing companies, or the most charitable employers in the publisher’s town. Rather than relying on ticket sales, publishers generate revenue through business sponsorships. What business wouldn’t want its logo on the brochure and signage for an event honoring the most charitable or innovative companies in town?

One issue to consider with business recognition events is that they tend to be low margin, so publishers will have to keep a tight watch on spending to ensure they don’t lose money when hosting an event.

3. Newsroom meet-and-greets

As far as live events are concerned, it doesn’t get much more straightforward than hosting a newsroom meet-and-greet. This type of live event is ideal for local publishers with membership programs, since many readers would jump at the chance to tour the publisher’s newsroom and interact with their favorite columnists in exchange for paying a nominal monthly fee.

Newsroom meet-and-greets don’t have to be formal. All that’s really needed is a newsroom, some refreshments, and a publication’s staff. Local publications that don’t have dedicated office space can host their meet-and-greet events at local coffee shops or event spaces.

4. Local Festivals

Time Out Group, the British publisher of city magazines and travel guidebooks, hosts hundreds of live events each year. This summer alone, the company is planning to host a ‘Movies on the River’ event, with a floating cinema, a silent disco at a London skyscraper, and an event called Battle of the Burger in New York.

Smaller, local publishers often have success hosting tasting events with top restaurants or brewers in their towns. In most cases, restaurants will pay to participate at these events, other local businesses will pay to sponsor them, and attendees will pay for tickets, presenting a trifecta of revenue generation channels.

Because they are such large events, the majority of festivals rely largely on sponsorships from businesses for support. For example, Time Out’s floating cinema event is being sponsored by Rekorderlig Botanicals cider. If hosting a large festival is out reach for a community-focused publisher, there’s also the option of working with a third-party provider on a revenue sharing model.

Live events are rarely enough to sustain a local publisher by themselves, but they can serve as a valuable source of secondary income and they can lead to additional opportunities, like the chance to sell branded merchandise and promote membership programs. Content from live events can also be recycled into webinars and on-demand videos that readers must pay to access.

If you’d like more information about the revenue generation strategies we offer local publishers at Web Publisher PRO, feel free to reach out.