Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Making money Part IV: Events build your brand

Last weekend I spent a day and a half participating online in NewsU's Revenue Camp for Journalism Entrepreneursan intense session on some of the new ways journalists are making money on the Web. (The entire course will be available to view online in a few days; Twitter comments from the course are at #revcamp.)

If you have a digital news organization that has built a community, you can create profitable events. Your loyal audience is something like a fan club and wants to meet other members. They will pay to attend, they will bring friends, they will be an attractive audience for sponsors and they will spread the word about you.

A digital publication with a small but devoted audience might not generate enough from advertising alone, but events can plug the gaps. 

Rafat Ali, founder and former executive of PaidContent, which covers the business side of digital news, told the attendees at Revenue Camp that his publication generated 50 percent of its revenue from events, with the rest about evenly split between job classifieds and display advertising. 

Networking the geeks 

Rebecca Lovell, chief business officer of Geekwire, which covers the tech community in Seattle, said Geekwire does nine annual events, four casual meetups, where the goal is to create community and "catalyze  conversations," and five signature events that had the additional goal of generating significant revenue and branding the publication. She provided a helpful event checklist

Geekwire tries to pick funky or trendy venues appealing to the tech community and creates activities such as a ping-pong tournament and other games to make events fun. 

They sponsor a one-day conference for "wantrepreneurs" interested in startups, a year-end holiday gala, and a startup awards program, among others. They sell tickets to major events, but at the meetups the goal is to break even.

Control costs

She presented detailed budget planning documents (available in the Resources Section of the Revenue Camp Course) which show how careful attention to expenses and clear attendance goals can ensure that profit margins are hefty.

Well run events generate revenue from tickets, sponsorships and advertising contracts related to the event. 

Personal experience

At the Baltimore Business Journal, where I was publisher, we ran 12 revenue generating events a year (The Book of Lists, Best Places to Work, Women in Business, Minority Businesses, etc.) and at least one event a month in which readers were invited to a presentation by our reporters or editors.

Attendees always commented to us that they made valuable business connections and learned something to help them in business. We as an organization made deeper connections with our readers and advertisers. 

Events create community and establish you as a thought leader. This has a monetary value. It allows a publication to go beyond CPM (cost per thousand) when it prices advertising.  

Making money Part I: Advice from Mark Briggs

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