As many struggling newsrooms — or publications who are at least in a stage of transition — keep thinking of ways to diversify their revenue streams, live events have become a welcome addition to the frameworks of many media companies.
When done right, event production can be a fantastic way to increase audience engagement with current readers, attract and inform new readers and promote the mission and vision of your publication.
And thanks to a recently-published “Strategy Study” produced by the American Press Institute (API), newsroom leaders now have another resource to refer to when pursuing event production.
Using the nonprofit, nonpartisan digitally-native publication The Texas Tribune as inspiration for a successful revenue model (in 2013, the Trib generated more than $1 million from events), the API spent eight months interviewing 19 publishers about how they made journalism events a sustainable, vital asset to their organizations, and to the community around them.
Now to the meat of the study. What are the top tips, as noted by the St. Louis Beacon, MinnPost, NJ Spotlight, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The New Yorker and others? Some of the ones I found most helpful are:
“Use assets you already have.”
API reports that organizations with event experience work most efficiently when they optimize the relationships and sources they have already developed. The Trib’s “Tribune Fest” is a political festival and marketplace of ideas boasting every big name in the state’s political structure, it seems. Don’t you think they already had phone numbers and ideas based on the reporting they have done?
“Weigh the value of different pricing strategies.”
Whoever said journalists don’t do math is wrong — at least in this day and age. Pricing matters, and it’s not easy to get all the figures right so that you turn a profit. Some press members suggested valuing corporate sponsorships, if you can secure them, over ticket sales or anything else. Earlier this year at a Digital Revenue Summit in Austin, I heard a Texas Tribune leader say they had stopped serving coffee at a few of their events just because they couldn’t justify the cost. In the long run, it was the best choice, she said, because no one was really attending these events for the coffee.
“Go all-in with promotions.”
First, get everyone under your newsroom’s roof on board, and then, market until you can’t market the event anymore. If you don’t talk about it constantly leading up to the day’s events, people won’t come. Treat it like it’s the best, most important event there is, and maybe your readers will, too. If there’s any area to half-do, it isn’t promoting the journalism event.
API’s study is a fantastic reference manual. In addition to the general tips they offer, you can download for free a “strategy worksheet” that helps you individualize an events strategy that will work for your unique needs.
You can check out API’s full report about maximizing event revenues here.