Digiday+ Research: Publishers take their focus off events as revenue dips

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In the back half of last year, it looked like publishers were getting ready to dial up their events businesses as a means of driving more revenue outside of ads. But as 2024 rolls on, it looks like the industry might not be going down that path after all.

According to Digiday+ Research surveys conducted among publisher professionals every six months, the percentage of publishers making money from events hit a low as of the first quarter of this year and, as a result, fewer publishers plan on putting a focus on growing that part of their business.

Looking at the data year over year, Digiday’s surveys found that publishers’ events revenue has been trending downward since 2022. In Q1 2022, 63% of publisher pros told Digiday that they got at least a very small portion of their revenue from events. A year later, that percentage fell to 57%, before falling again to 47% in Q1 of this year.

Put another way, the percentage of publishers who get none of their revenue from events has been trending upward. Fifty-three percent of publishers said in Q1 2024 that they don’t get any revenue from events, up from 43% in Q1 2023 and 37% in Q1 2022.

To be fair, publishers haven’t historically gotten a significant amount of revenue from events — at least not based on Digiday’s survey data. For example, in Q1 of this year, one-third of publisher pros (33%) said they get a very small or small portion of their revenue from events, compared with just 8% who said they get a moderate portion of revenue from events and the same percentage who said events account for a large or very large portion of their revenue.

However, the gap between the percentage of publishers who get a small amount of revenue from events and those who get no revenue from events is significantly larger this year than it has been in the past. In fact, Digiday’s Q3 2023 survey had previously found the largest gap between the two groups at 11 percentage points, but the percentage of publishers who made a little bit of money from events was larger than the percentage of publishers who made no money from events (39% of publisher pros said in Q3 that a very small or small portion of their revenue came from events, compared with 28% who said none of their revenue came from events). In Q1 2024, however, 33% of publisher pros said that events accounted for a very small or small portion of their revenue, compared with 53% of publisher pros who said they made no money from events — a 20 percentage point difference.

Interestingly, though, Digiday’s surveys also found that a pattern might be emerging in which publishers get more revenue from their events businesses in the second half of the year rather than the first half. In 2022, 63% of publisher pros said in Q1 that they got at least a very small portion of their revenue from events, compared with 71% who said the same in Q3. In 2023, 57% said  in Q1 that they got at least a very small portion of revenue from events, and 72% said the same in Q3 of that year.

With 47% of publisher pros saying in Q1 2024 that they got at least a very small portion of their revenue from events, it will be interesting to see if this pattern plays out into Q3.

With fewer publishers reporting in Q1 that they were making money from their events businesses, it makes sense that Digiday’s survey found that publishers’ focus on growing that part of their business saw a significant drop-off. Fifty-two percent of publisher pros told Digiday in Q1 2024 that they made at least a very small portion of their revenue from events, down very significantly from the 80% who said the same just six months prior.

Looking at this data year over year as well, the percentage of publishers putting a focus on growing their events business has been trending downward since 2022. In Q1 2022, 71% of publisher pros said they got at least a very small amount of revenue from events. In Q1 2023, 67% said the same before falling to 52% in Q1 2024. In other words, 48% of publisher pros said in Q1 of this year that they’re not focused at all on building their events business in the next six months, compared with 33% in Q1 2023 and 29% in Q1 2022.

However, Digiday’s surveys found a similar pattern in publishers’ focus on growing their events businesses to the pattern found in publishers’ events revenue data. In Q3 2022, 78% of publisher pros said they put at least a very small focus on building their events business, and 80% said the same in Q3 2023.

Looking again at year over year data on publishers’ events revenue, Digiday’s surveys found that the percentage of publishers who put a large focus on growing their events business has been trending downward. In Q1 2022, 29% of publisher pros said they put a large or very large focus on building events, compared with 25% in Q1 2023 and 21% in Q1 2024. Meanwhile, the percentage of publishers who said events would be a large focus fell from 40% in Q3 2022 to 33% in Q3 2023.

https://digiday.com/?p=541040

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