Research Briefing: Publisher events and influencer partnerships offer key brand marketing opportunities

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In this edition of the Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine how publisher-hosted events and influencer partnerships offer brands more key marketing opportunities, how The New Yorker refocused its newsletter strategy in the last year, and how digital media companies are exploring the fediverse, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.

52% of publishers plan to grow their events business

Although brands have used events to generate consumer interest in their products for years, publisher-hosted events are becoming a particularly useful brand marketing opportunity this year. This is according to a survey of 174 marketing professionals featured in Digiday+ Research’s 2024 brand guide to events, which found that many publications plan to build their events businesses in 2024. 

Publisher-hosted events allow brands to promote their products through sponsorships and collaborations, and to achieve goals such as generating brand buzz and driving sales. In the first quarter of 2024, slightly more than half of publisher respondents (52%) told Digiday they would focus at least a little on growing their events business in the next six months.

Influencer partnerships also emerged as another key strategy that gives brands additional touch points for customer engagement. Combining influencer marketing and event marketing can help boost an event’s exposure and create a lasting impression with an extended audience. Partnering with influencers who align with a brand’s values can create positive buzz among new and existing customers.

Digiday’s sibling publication Glossy found that 10 out of the 15 influencers included in Glossy’s 2024 Influencer Index posted about brand events on their Instagram accounts last year. On YouTube, three out of the 11 influencers with active YouTube channels posted videos about brand events in 2023. 

Posts featuring influencers getting ready for a brand event or posts made from the brand events themselves garnered significant attention from their audiences. On average, posts about brand events on Instagram had a higher engagement rate than all other types of sponsored posts — at 5.6% versus the average at 4.0%. The same results occurred on YouTube, where videos about brand events had a higher average engagement rate than other types of sponsored videos.

Insights and stats:

  • “I like when I get to post the actual event and what happens at the event because it takes [your audience] with you. That’s something I like to do with my audience, really immerse them and take them with me. I love doing it. I think it’s worth it.” — Mikayla Noguiera, beauty influencer
  • Influencers’ posts about technology companies’ brand events — including Amazon, TikTok and Google — received the highest engagement among the event categories included in Glossy’s index. Other categories measured were entertainment/media, beauty, fashion and travel/lifestyle.
  • “Pre-pandemic we had a massive events business. Obviously, we reduced that, to bring it back up again. … We’re expanding the number of events … and the amount of revenue we bring in is expanding. So, it is an important part of our strategy, both for brand awareness and our business model.” — Nicholas Thompson, CEO at The Atlantic

Read Digiday’s 2024 brand guide to events

Digiday+ Reseach digest

Last August, The New Yorker refocused its newsletter strategy by sending newsletters less frequently and giving paid subscribers early access to content in their inboxes. As a result, onsite page views and time spent from newsletter users has gone up, as has the percentage of newsletter subscribers who are also paying New Yorker subscribers, according to Jessanne Collins, The New Yorker’s director of newsletters. The increase in page views and time spent by newsletter users is likely a draw for the more than half of marketers who invest in email newsletter sponsorships or display ads.

Insights and stats:

  • Fifty-four percent of brands and retailers and 50% of agencies said they invest in email newsletter sponsorships or display ads, according to a Q1 2024 Digiday+ Research survey of brand, retailer and agency professionals.
  • “Our goal with the newsletters is really to drive overall engagement with the brand, our content and loyalty over time so that we’re ultimately contributing to converting users to becoming paid subscribers.” — Jessanne Collins, The New Yorker’s director of newsletters
  • Programmatic advertising remains a stalwart among marketers’ ad budgets. Seventy-seven percent of brand and retailer professionals said their companies currently use programmatic site display ads, and an even larger 80% of agency professionals said the same of their clients.

Read more about marketers’ programmatic investments

At least two digital media companies are exploring the fediverse as a way to take more control over their referral traffic and onsite audience engagement. The Verge and 404 Media are building out new functions that would allow them to distribute posts on their sites and on federated platforms — like Threads, Mastodon and Bluesky — at the same time. These ambitions come at a challenging time when social referral traffic has dipped and platforms are deprioritizing content from publishers. The fediverse allows users from different social media platforms and services to interact with one another without creating individual accounts for each platform.

Insights and stats:

  • “As an independent publisher, we are really excited about anything we can do to reach readers directly without needing to rely on social media platforms owned by massive tech companies who can take away access to our audience on a whim.” — Jason Koebler, co-founder of 404 Media
  • Publishers’ use of Facebook fell last year. Ninety-one percent of publisher professionals said in 2023 that their titles posted content to Facebook in the last month, down from the 99% who said the same in 2022 and even the 95% who said they posted to Facebook in 2021.
  • There was a significant drop in the percentage of publishers who said they’re using X between 2022 and 2023. Eighty-nine percent of publisher pros said in 2022 that their titles posted content to X (formerly Twitter) in the past month. In 2023, fewer than three-quarters of publisher pros (73%) said the same.
  • Meanwhile, the percentage of publishers that are actively using Instagram has been trending upward. In 2023, 91% of publisher pros said their titles had posted content to Instagram in the past month, up from 86% in 2022 and 84% the year before.

Read more about publishers’ use of Instagram

See research from all Digiday Media Brands:

Digiday+ Research

Glossy+ Research

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