Commentary

Publishers Need To Boost Event Marketing To Outflank Digital Ad Giants

Publishers faced with declining print revenue have sought to diversify their business models in ways to provide deeper connections among advertisers and readers. That diversification includes live events that promise to give attendees an experience they can’t find elsewhere, one they can share on social media with friends and followers.

For example, Time Out Group got its start with print publications that provided listings of local events. But competitive pressures have compelled the publisher to transform its editorial mission from providing recommendations on what to do. Time Out increasingly is in the business of providing actual experiences.

Crowdsourced review sites like Yelp have diminished the role of professional critics, especially in under-served suburban areas and smaller towns. Facebook and Google have taken steps to expand their listings of local events to prevent their users from looking elsewhere, like Time Out’s print publications and websites, for things to do.

Time Out in 2014 opened a food hall in Lisbon to showcase the Portuguese capital’s best dining and cultural experiences, including live concerts, parties and cooking workshops. The Lisbon site hosted 3.6 million visitors in 2017, making it a top destination for locals and tourists.

Next year, Time Out Market will expand the concept to North America. Miami, New York, Boston, Chicago and Montreal will have similar marketplaces to highlight local culinary attractions and events.

Time Out is among the publishers that have expanded beyond print as advertisers set aside more of their budgets for experiential marketing to reach millennials, which now make up the biggest demographic group in the United States.

Community-building, brand awareness and lead generation are the top reasons to run live events, according to a survey by event software maker Bizzabo. Almost two-thirds of marketers plan to boost their total event budgets by an average of 22% in the next year, the survey found.

Almost all marketers, 95%, said in-person events give attendees a chance to form connections in an increasingly digital world, according to Bizzabo.

As publishers face the ongoing threats from Google, Facebook and Amazon in digital advertising, experiential-marketing strategies are a key way to connect audiences with editorial expertise and sponsors.

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