How VentureBeat’s new chief strategy officer is focusing on diversity, innovation to grow events and ad revenue

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Publishers’ events businesses have been a bright spot in an otherwise grim economic climate. While trade publishers and consumer publishers have different approaches to how events fit in their portfolios, both are benefiting from advertisers wanting face-to-face impressions with prospective customers.

VentureBeat’s total revenue increased by 50% year over year from 2021 to 2022. And despite having an events business for more than 15 years, the company’s events revenue increased by about 100% during that same time period, said Gina Joseph, the company’s newly appointed chief strategy officer, who was promoted last month, though she did not provide exact figures.

In Joseph’s five years at VentureBeat, she implemented VB Lab, a structure for how the company’s sales team custom would build campaigns for each individual advertiser. During the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast, she discussed how VB Lab’s impacted VentureBeat’s bottom line in the four-and-a-half years since its launch, as well as how her appointment to CSO marks DE&I history in the publishing industry.

Below are highlights from the conversation, which have been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Giving advertisers a realistic understanding of event marketing 

We saw about [100%] growth in events sponsorships [year over year] and that’s also partially because we added more events to the calendar. And that was in response to the demand. So we said, “Wow, there’s a lot of demand for our content, how can we keep the engagement going?” And so that’s actually one of the things that I’ve also encouraged our partners is, don’t plan to just make a big splash at a big event. You have to think about your go-to market strategy leading up to the event, after the event [and] how you’re really engaging with the community. It only goes so far if you’re a headline sponsor for a big event and then you kind of disappear. Authenticity is going to be even more important.

Revenue breakdown

Events is about 50% of our revenue and that has stayed steady. We continue to see that and I do see a bit more growth on the digital side, but because when we do bring in those custom event sponsorships, which can range — our event sponsorships can range from $35,000 to $1.5 million. And that is really reflective of our process of how we’re going to put together the right partnership opportunity.

And then the other 50% [of our revenue] is all things digital to support thought leadership, lead [generation] and awareness goals. Almost every event sponsorship has some component of digital tied into it.

Centering diversity and inclusion in events and leadership 

Given the industry we’re in, media, where we’re creating content and we’re influencing business leaders and informing how they make decisions, every media company becomes even more responsible and has a bigger responsibility to increase their inclusivity so that you’re not biased in your content.

When you make decisions as a leadership team… I look at everyone on my team as a leader. They’re all a leader in their regard… they’re leading their initiatives. But when you make a decision, that’s why inclusivity becomes even much more important, because your decision is only going to be based off of what you know. And I always like to build a team where everyone around me knows more than me and is smarter than me so that we can work together to make the right decision and move forward.

And I will say that sometimes you don’t have the resources to hire the way you want to… but what you can do is think about what are other ways that you could support this. One of the things we’re doing, for instance, for our events is being really mindful that at least 50% of our speakers represent [people from diverse backgrounds] and/or are women.

And why not 80% to 90%? Sometimes it’s hard to do because if we have an event on AI, and there’s only so many women who have been promoted in leadership positions in the tech world and you don’t have a lot to work with, it’s like a trickle effect. But that doesn’t mean that you stop and you have excuses. You have to think about what you can do, how you can contribute to it, whether it’s your content, your events, your decisions, or using your platform to support other organizations.

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