Publishers Expand Consultancy Services to Include Virtual Events

GEMG is one outfit introducing a new offering for the public sector

little boxes with different illustrations of different people
Publishers are expanding their consultancy services with virtual events. Getty Images
Headshot of Sara Jerde

As digital publishers and platforms see new opportunities in online events, companies are expediting the growth of virtual get-togethers through homegrown product offerings meant for the stay at home era.

Government Executive Media Group, Inc. (GEMG), which publishes brands like Government Executive and Defense One, has built a platform called GovExec Virtuoso. In doing so, GEMG is also bolstering its own consultancy capabilities.

“The reality is live events are forever changed. We’re not going to see people convening in hotel ballrooms anytime soon. That networking component won’t come back,” said Tim Hartman, CEO of GEMG. “We’re rethinking the entire experience as a digital experience.”

GovExec Virtuoso is the first major product launch since Atlantic Media sold GEMG to private equity company Growth Catalyst Partners. That transaction happened in mid-March just as the pandemic began to take hold in the U.S.

The company is targeting the public sector (think, government contractors that are looking to put on a virtual industry event).

GovExec Virtuoso will use commonplace technologies like Zoom to facilitate the events while offering add-ons, like central hubs to hold all event materials and interactive sessions with roundtables and audience polling. 

There’s also the opportunity for sponsored moments, Hartman said. He declined to reveal how much the service will cost. 

“The opportunity for revenue generation is endless in the digital sphere, and they aren’t tied by space,” Hartman said.

Like many businesses, media organizations have been under financial constraints, exacerbated by the loss of revenue from sponsorships and ticket sales tied to in-person events. By the end of March, publishers including The Atlantic, Axios and The Wall Street Journal had revamped their in-person conferences for digital formats.

Other media companies, like Penske Media, are also making more investments in their event capabilities. Penske, which publishes brands like Rolling Stone and Robb Report, just acquired LDJ Productions, an event management and technical production agency with virtual event abilities.

GEMG is already selling deep experience in events. From January 2019 to March 2020, the company put on 75 digital events across its brands. By the end of this month, it will have held 50, said Constance Sayers, GEMG president. GEMG’s events business is more than 20 years old and has been in the hybrid digital/in-person space for the last eight years.

“We would not have done this had we not already been a company with a viable events business and digital business,” Sayers said.

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.