Versión en español aquí.
Digital entrepreneurs should take notice of the success that the online publication Texas Tribune has been having with special events.
The Tribune’s events have generated significant revenue as well as editorial content and market buzz, according to the Nieman Journalism Lab.
Corporate sponsors are willing to pay for visibility and recognition at these events, which often feature newsmakers as speakers. Chief Editor Evan Smith says that he has no problem making it clear that sponsorship does not translate into influence in the newsroom.
Value of loyalty
Journalists who are running digital media often do not recognize the value of their own brands and the value of their audiences’ loyalty.
Loyal readers and users want a closer relationship not only with the news organization but with other readers. While they value the online relationship, they crave a face-to-face contact with the journalists and other followers of the website.
This loyalty has a value for potential event sponsors. For example, if you can show a potential sponsor that 10 percent of your visitors came to the site more than 10 times in the past month and spent more than 5 minutes each time, that sponsor might want to pay to be associated with your brand.
"Make connections, create opportunities"
At the weekly business journals where I was a publisher, in the American City Business Journals group, we had a special relationship with readers.
Our 40 newspapers produced the best information about local businesses while everyone else was focused on the big corporations. Readers relied on our news to help them understand the local economy and discover new business opportunities. The event slogan used by some of our papers was, "Make connections, create opportunities."
Corporate sponsors and tickets
When our newspapers held breakfast or luncheon events with speakers of interest to small business owners, we were able to sell hundreds of tickets that more than covered the cost of the food and the venue.
Corporate sponsors were willing to pay for the right to display a banner, have their name on the program and receive other recognition at the event. Sponsors wanted to be associated with our brand and to meet potential clients in the reflected glow of credibility of our newspapers.
These events are relatively inexpensive to produce. We never paid speakers; they wanted to appear before an audience of our readers. Don’t print invitations. Do all the marketing via email and ads on your site. You might get a radio or TV station as a media co-sponsor to help promote the event. If costs for the venue and any food are kept under control, the profit margins can be 50 percent or more.
Even more important, though, is the buzz that events create for your media brand. They give you visibility. They strengthen your image as a leader in your field. They reinforce the value of your product with potential advertisers and sponsors who also may be attending the event.
The details of events should be handled by the marketing and sales team. The biggest challenge with events for a small organization of three or four people is the amount of detail and attention to logistics required. You might want to bring in extra help on a part-time basis. This event-planning checklist from eHow is a good place for you to start.