Digiday+ Research deep dive: Publishers look to capitalize as people head back to events

Illustration of a virtual conference waiting room.

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

In spring 2021, it was hard to imagine exactly what the future would look like for publishers’ revenues — especially when it came to events. But events have finally begun to rebound, giving publishers an opportunity to rebuild that part of their business.

Digiday+ Research surveyed publisher professionals to take stock of publishers’ events businesses, especially as attitudes about attending events — and the potential revenues associated with them — shift dramatically.

It turns out that more publishers are getting a large portion of their revenue from events than they were six months ago: This past winter, only 9% of respondents to Digiday’s survey said events drive a large chunk of their revenue. That number jumped to 18% this summer. Meanwhile, the percentage of publishers who said none of their revenue comes from events fell from 37% to 29% over the same period. And a significant number of publishers — 38%, to be exact — are getting at least a small portion of their revenue from events.

Digiday’s survey also found that the likelihood that publishers’ events revenue will grow even more in the coming months is high: 40% of respondents said building their events business will be a large focus in the next six months, up significantly from 29% in the winter. At the same time, the percentage of publishers who said they won’t focus at all on building their events business in the next six months fell from nearly a third six months ago to less than a quarter this summer.

It turns out this shift comes with good reason: Digiday’s survey found that people are back out at events. Six months ago, only 14% of publisher pros said they had attended an in-person business conference or event in the past month. This summer, that number jumped to 36%. And it’s safe to say that this increase is part of a significant trend, considering that in spring 2021 a mere 3% of respondents to Digiday’s survey said they had attended such an event in the past month.

Meanwhile, the percentage of publisher pros who said they haven’t attended an in-person conference or business event plummeted over the same period. In spring 2021, a whopping 87% of respondents to Digiday’s survey said they hadn’t been to such an event in the past year. This summer, only about a quarter of respondents said the same.

And as an economic downturn approaches, publishers banking on events is likely a good business move, Digiday’s survey found. In spring 2021, only 7% of respondents said they were willing to attend an in-person business conference or event in the next month. That number was up to 42% six months ago and increased even further to 64% this summer. If this trend continues, publishers that invest in their events business could open themselves up to a potentially lucrative revenue stream at a critical time.


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