Time appoints its first chief events officer as publishers double down on events in 2024
Time today has announced the newly created role of chief events officer, in a move that’s emblematic of the media industry’s fervor towards events revenue heading into 2024.
Dan Macsai, Time’s executive editor and vp of events, was promoted to the C-suite after the media company experienced a 70% year over year increase in U.S. events revenue in 2023 and a 14% increase year over year in international events revenue, according to Time CEO Jessica Sibley. She declined to share hard revenue figures, but a company spokesperson said that the events business represented eight-figures in revenue this year.
Time hosted 27 events in 2023, up from 10 in 2022, and next year there are currently 33 events scheduled, including a new one tied to the soon-to-be launched Time Health franchise. The events team under Macsai grew substantially as well in 2023, starting with 5 employees at the top of the year and ending 2023 with 13, with roles ranging from design, sales, customer success, programming and audience development.
According to Sibley, the appetite for events right now even exceeds the pre-covid levels. “We are going to continue to drive our event opportunities because that’s where the demands and the client asks are. They want to be part of our tentpole events,” she said.
While not all media companies have taken the step of creating a C-suite position dedicated to events, many publishers did invest heavily into their events businesses over the past year in preparation for what will hopefully be a banner year for event revenue. Bloomberg and Semafor, in addition to Time, have grown the teams in charge of this revenue stream and more intentionally carved out events as a core part of their business operations.
And investing in events seems to be a shared mentality amongst the majority of publishers in 2024 as well. According to Digiday+ Research, which surveyed 350 publisher professionals, 80% said in Q3 of this year that they will put at least a very small focus on building their events businesses in the next six months, up significantly from 67% in Q1 of this year.
On a recent episode of the Digiday Podcast, Semafor’s co-founder and CEO Justin Smith said that since launching in October 2022, the company hosted over 40 events, which brought in seven-figures of revenue and was a profitable business for the media start-up.
“Semafor is an events company with a journalism company on the side,” said Smith jokingly. “That’s not exactly the case because the events are, at their heart, journalism. But I say it just to make the point that we are approaching [our events business] completely differently.”
Instead of having events be the “redheaded stepchild” of the media business, like Smith noted is common among the other media outlets where he’s worked, the events business is a top priority that everyone at Semafor, be it the newsroom, the sales team or the CRO. “Make it a core business,” he said.
That means Smith’s team in 2024 will be growing the events that launched during year one, including the Semafor World Economy Summit in Washington, D.C. that runs adjacent to the IMF World Bank meetings in April. In year one, there were 60 speakers and 500 attendees, but next year, the summit will have 200 speakers and have a goal of more than 1,000 attendees, he said.
Bloomberg Media’s events business is run separately from its core ads business, according to CRO Christine Cook, a shift done earlier this year as part of a restructure of the company’s sales and marketing teams that included the hire of Felippe Velloso as global head of growth at Bloomberg Live Experiences. Despite being separate sales divisions, however, events remain a tentpole for both teams in 2024, given clients often incorporate experiential in other brand campaigns, Cook said.
Events revenue grew by about 48% year over year for Bloomberg Media and the growth strategy for its events business in 2024 is similar to how it approached this year: “fewer and bigger,” Cook said.
“The focus is when we do it, it should be powerful and engaging enough that a global business leader would want to travel to that destination. It’s also so that we can continue to attract the highest profile and more interesting speakers … When you have sponsors involved, that is important to them,” said Cook. “It would be easy to chase around and do it all the time, but then you thin yourself out, you dilute the value for the client.”
Not all publishers are of the same mindset that doubling down on events is the golden ticket solution to securing revenue in 2024, however. One media exec said that while they’re glad to have an events business, their company is not planning to increase the number of events it will produces in 2024. “We’re not betting heavily there,” they said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
When asked why that’s the case, the exec said it comes down to growing competition. One of the publisher’s marquee events, for example, takes place in late September often sharing the same time frame as several other publisher events. “You’re dealing with a relatively small pool of advertisers, [and] it’s pretty competitive,” they said.
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