Bloomberg Live’s New Global Chief Is Betting Big on Events

Stephen Colvin wants to take brand's conferences around the world

“Good events, from my point of view, are good storytelling,” Colvin says.
Judy Schiller

Adweek: You’ve been the CEO of media companies including the Robb Report, the Newsweek Daily Beast Company and Dennis Publishing. Why take a job focusing on live events? 
Stephen Colvin: Bloomberg is an amazing company. Great products, great people, and the chocolate almonds at our offices aren’t too bad either, by the way. But events have always been a pretty important thread with all the media companies that I’ve worked with, going back to way before I came to the U.S. when I was in the U.K. I’ve always been a huge believer in the role that events play as a very powerful, engaging media platform. 

It seems like everyone company is investing in events. How do you make Bloomberg Live’s events stand out from the competition?
Well first of all, we’re Bloomberg. It’s a trusted, respective, objective brand. Given the resources we have and the Bloomberg intelligence research, we’re very data-driven. We may be in spaces where other people are—obviously business, finance—but we’re trying to identify areas where we have expertise and also that hasn’t been covered yet. I think one example of that is our Bloomberg Breakaway summit. What we’re doing there is not just focusing on the large companies but taking hugely successful [mid-sized] organizations and bringing them together in a community and letting them learn about challenges and do’s and don’t’s from people who have already broken out of the $500 million to $2 billion revenue range. There’s also a workshop and roundtables throughout the year after the event.

Part of your new job is developing new monetization strategies. Tell me about how you’re doing that.
Good events, from my point of view, are good storytelling, and I believe there are ways that storytelling can be brought to life through the different resources at the events that are available for our marketing sponsors as well. That can be custom content on video screens, among other ideas we’re working on. We have a great digital video team at Bloomberg that can activate at these events for our marketing partners. They’ve been working with marketers but they haven’t focused directly on [creating content] for events.

What new events are you planning to launch this year?
We have a new concept called Bloomberg Invest, and that’s a conference for the c-suite and thought leaders around institutional investing. Sooner Than You Think is another, and that’s with our technology platform. We’re working with Cornell Tech’s new campus on Roosevelt Island. There are quite a few new initiatives we’re working on. Our plan is to execute more of these franchise events in the U.S. and then also be doing them in the different territories we operate in. We’re in 120 markets—not that we’re going to go to all 120 different markets. We’re interested in taking events like Sooner Than You Think to EMEA and APEC as well.

There was a big focus on streamlining when Bloomberg Live launched in 2015, which involved cutting down from 14 to seven events that year, but in 2016, Bloomberg Live hosted 19 events. Is streamlining not really in the cards anymore?
There’s not really a yes or no answer. We want to put our best foot forward and we’re not going to do events just for the sake of doing them. We’re focusing on building meaningful marquee events that translate into other territories. We’re not going to be doing 20 marquee events in the U.S. But globally, it’s going to be a pretty significant number.

This story first appeared in the April 3, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.