Digiday+ Research: Events will be key for publishers’ revenues next year
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At the tail end of a rough year for publishers, it looks like events might carry some holiday cheer through the end of the fourth quarter and beyond. Publishers’ events businesses picked up pretty significantly during the back half of this year — and they will focus on sustaining that lift into 2024, according to research from Digiday.
This finding tracks with recent news: Digiday reported last week that several digital publishers are doubling down on events heading into next year. Specifically, BDG, Gallery Media Group and World of Good Brands are turning to strategies like increasing the volume of events, turning their events businesses into standalone brands and turning experiential franchises into pop-up commercial content creation studios — all with the same goal: to keep revenue flowing.
Some publishers have already seen success with their events this year, despite the challenges of 2023. Axios, for example, started 2023 with the goal of earning $10 million in event sponsorship revenue by the end of the year — and the company exceeded that goal in Q3, with the added bonus of an expected 60% year-over-year increase in events revenue by the end of Q4. Meanwhile, Bloomberg Media reported that event revenue was up 48% year over year as of Q3, and Semafor hosted 40 events before its one-year anniversary last month, with half of the company’s total revenue coming from events.
And as we covered in our definitive ranking of publishers’ revenue sources last month, events still fall short of being among the very top revenue sources for publishers — it came in seventh out of the 10 revenue sources we ranked — but publishers’ reliance on event revenue has been trending upward in recent years. Nearly three-quarters of publisher pros (72%) told Digiday+ Research this year that at least a very small portion of their revenue comes from events, up slightly from 71% last year and up significantly from 61% the year before.
Events climbed into the top five revenue sources when we accounted for where publishers said they get a large or very large portion of their revenues in our ranking. Fourteen percent of publisher pros said events account for a large or very large portion of their revenues this year, putting events in fifth place in the large/very large category. Although, it is worth noting that 14% does represent a bit of a drop from the 18% who said the same last year.
So where exactly are publishers at now when it comes to their events businesses? Optimistic is a good place to start, according to Digiday+ Research surveys of over 350 publisher professionals, the most recent of which took place in the third quarter of this year.
Digiday’s surveys found that significantly more publishers are making money from events in the second half of the year, compared with the beginning of 2023. Nearly three-quarters of publisher pros (72%) told Digiday in Q3 of this year that they make at least a very small portion of their revenue from events, up from 57% in Q1.
It’s important to note here, though, that this represents a rebound in this category, and even potentially indicates a pattern of publishers making more money from events in the second half of the year, rather than the first. In Q3 2022, 71% of publisher pros told Digiday that at least a very small portion of their revenues came from events, while 63% had said the same in Q1 last year.
Digiday’s surveys also found the percentage of publishers who said they get a significant portion of their revenues from events jumped in the second half of the year, compared with the first. In Q1 2023, one-quarter of publisher pros (25%) said they got a moderate, large or very large portion of their revenues from events. By Q3, one-third (33%) said the same.
Very interestingly, these data points are also indicative of a potential pattern among publishers in recent years. In Q1 of last year, 27% of publisher pros told Digiday that events accounted for a moderate, large or very large portion of their revenues, compared with 34% in Q3 2022.
Digiday’s surveys found that publishers’ events momentum will carry them into next year. Eighty percent of publisher pros said in Q3 of this year that they will put at least a very small focus on building their events businesses in the next sixt months, up significantly from 67% in Q1 of this year.
And publishers are expressing a commitment when it comes to the focus they’ll put on building their events businesses into next year. Twenty-nine percent of publisher pros told Digiday in Q3 2023 that they’re moderately focused on building events in the next six months, up from just 16% in Q1 of this year. At the same time, one-third of publishers (33%) said in Q3 that they’ll put a large or very large focus on building their events business in the next six months, up from one-quarter (25%) in Q1.
Meanwhile, the percentage of publishers who said they will focus on events only a little or not at all in the coming months has dropped throughout this year. In Q1 2023, 26% of publisher pros told Digiday that they would put a very small or small focus on building their events businesses in the next six months and 33% said they wouldn’t focus at all on building that part of their business. Comparatively, in Q3 2023, 18% said events will be a small or very small focus over the next six months and 20% said that part of their business won’t be a focus.
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