Focusing on subscriptions, renewals, and ad revenue is a tried and true recipe for success in the media industry.  To increase Revenue per Reader, however, requires some creative thought and willingness to leverage our industry  expertise, experience and energy to engage readers differently.  Fortunately, many formats are available to allow BtoB publishers to dip a toe in the water, gain experience and develop an audience before jumping in the deep end with a live conference or webinar.  How do your events compare with your BtoB peers?

It wasn’t long ago that we asked our readers when their next event would take place. We weren’t kidding. There is no question that events are an increasingly valuable component of an effective media strategy—as a way to diversify revenue by increasing engagement and growing audience, as well as generating direct revenue. As it turns out, the New York Times agrees. An entire section of their leaked Innovation Report focuses on events and the publication’s need to step it up. If The Times is talking about the need to increase the scope of their events, that’s something worth paying attention to.  Why?  With many readers and an investment in Audience Development, even small changes in media strategy can lead to big results, and these results scale to all publishers.  Here's The Times' profile:

  • 30 million U.S. web readers per month
  • 20 million U.S. mobile readers per month
  • 13.5 million news alert audience members
  • 11.3 million Twitter followers
  • 6.5 million email newsletter subscribers
  • 5.7 million Facebook followers
  • 1.25 million print subscribers
  • 760,000 digital subscribers

And, here are a few key insights from The Times, that can be applied to BtoB media: 

  • Events should be as much about audience development as they are about generating immediate revenues. Focus on loyalty and engagement. These priorities mean making an event about connecting more directly and personally with readers.
  • For events to truly succeed, there must be a cohesive effort between your staff in content creation and your staff on the business side.
  • Marketing events should focus less on ads and more on readers who are “willing to pay,” meaning, “attendees are members of a broader audience and must be treated that way.”
  • Events should feature your greatest talent—writers and experts in the industry with whom your readers want a deeper connection.
  • Opening the event to everyone but including perks (like exclusive sessions) for subscribers or premium subscribers motivates readers to become more engaged and non-members to subscribe.
  • Instead of creating one-off events, focus on a large annual event OR core competencies and expertise to create a touring event in which the only thing to change, essentially, is the locale.

You might be thinking, “These are great in theory, but how do I apply The Times' tactics to my BtoB company?” Let’s face it, not all of us have the resources that The Times has, but that doesn’t mean we can’t succeed.

Start by looking at how two publishers, one a regional business journal and the other a vertical BtoB leader, are succeeding with their events:

Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) manages its event stream daily, tapping in-house expertise to host and market events in its core topic areas: healthcare, real estate, business management and community leadership.  Managing events within its Enterprise Publishing System, IBJ's staff efficiently creates events and associates listings with related articles and in search results, with a built-in taxonomy system.  

Most importantly,  IBJ handles registration and payment on site:  readers and site visitors enter attendee data in a form that allows IBJ to capture demographic data for all attendees in its own audience database.  Registrants pay for individual tickets, tables or discounted bundles in IBJ's secure shopping cart, and receive confirmations and reminders directly from IBJ.  

The result?  IBJ Audience Development staff invest in loyalty with targeted discounts and generate leads for sponsors and subscription offers instead of sending attendees off to a separate event provider.

IBJ's success also depends of reader experience.  A calendar makes it easy for visitors to browse by title and date range before exploring further.  IBJ's formula for events pages includes: 

  • Detailed topic descriptions that link from the event overview page
  • Presenting and underwriting sponsors, including links to sponsor websites
  • Intuitive, secure registration steps
  • Related social media feeds, and
  • Relevant ads

By tapping in-house expertise and by managing events efficiently with its Enterprise Publishing System, IBJ has grown a new revenue stream that contributes to ad sales/lead gen, and provides a steady stream of prospects for subscription sales.

FDANews engages readers by creating unique pages for each event.  Once an event title is selected from FDANews' calendar, readers are met with an intuitive and engaging landing page that delivers:

  • Speaker profiles
  • Who should attend, CE credits
  • Location and other specific details
  • Topic Summary, related resources.

Equally important to Audience Development, FDANews accommodates those who are too busy to attend by offering variations of most events.  Using its built in eCommerce system, FDANews staff can create listings for event videos and transcripts, bundling offers with books or DVDs to allow customers to select the option that best meets their needs, schedule and budget.

Looking for more practical ideas that apply to your media business?  One of my favorite sources -- and personalities -- is Niche Media, with its Niche Event Nation blog, or no surprise, you can attend an event about putting on successful events: Niche's Event Fest.  When you consider the fact that even the “big boys” are learning how to make events a significant part of their revenue model and Audience Development effort and then see how your peers are succeeding, perhaps it doesn’t seem so daunting. All you need is one and you are on the road to success!