Revenue Models that Work: Journalism's Big Money Moves

How four media organizations are using events to raise revenue, engage audiences

Producing events is one opportunity for news outlets to generate additional revenue and build relationships with audiences. A panel of news and advertising executives spoke about their local events during Revenue Models That Work, which was held Oct. 12-13 at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Panelists were Lyndsi Lane, vice president of GateHouse Live; Bob Silvy, senior vice president of local ad revenue at American City Business Journals; Glynelle Wells, senior account executive at KMOX Radio in St. Louis; and Pamela Parker, executive features editor at Third Door Media.

Here are five takeaways the speakers shared about planning events:

  1. There are a myriad of events conducted by the panelists. Here are seven examples of events they put together or oversaw at their respective organizations:
    • High school sports awards banquets
      • Throughout the year, reporters at GateHouse Media publications pick top athletes from local sports teams to honor during special awards banquets.
    • Festivals
      • Uncorked is a popular music, food and drink festival produced locally by KMOX and its sister CBS radio stations in St. Louis. The event brings in major music performers like Gavin Degraw and attracts between 18,000 to 20,000 people.
    • Food Fight
      • KMOX Radio also produces Food Fight, where local chefs compete for the title of St. Louis Food Fight Champion. The public and judges sample their entries and vote for their favorite dish.
    • Pet-A-Palooza
      • KMOX Radio conducts Pet-A-Palooza events for pet lovers. The 2017 event included a Q&A with a local veterinarian, pet adoption opportunities and a dog trick show.
    • Virtual events
      • GateHouse Media publications partner with local sponsors to host virtual events. During one event, GateHouse and a local hospital gave an audience the opportunity to watch a filmed open-heart surgery and ask questions of the surgeon.
    • Business recognition events
      • American City Business Journals holds business-to-business events honoring Best Places to Work, Fastest Growing Companies and Healthiest Employers.
    • Custom events
      • American City Business Journals produce made-to-order events for clients, based on the client’s desired demographic and message.
  2. Planning events requires hard work and a time commitment.
    • With careful planning, and support and help across departments, producing events can be worth it, says Silvy. American City Business Journals has experienced growth in its event revenue, sometimes “faster than digital,” he adds. “To have two dynamic growth segments of your revenue going in a positive direction to counteract what’s happening with print is something very, very positive.”
  3. There are resources available to news outlets to plan and produce events.
    • Silvy says he’s met people from smaller news outlets who hired event planners with experience working with trade organizations. There are websites that can help with event registration, he says.
    • If the event focuses on a topic, Silvy suggests finding an organization that already supports that topic. For example, If hosting a human resources event, partner with an organization like the Society of Human Resource Management.
    • “They’re already doing a lot of their own events, so you need to find some niche that they’re not doing and would see value in working with this,” he says. “But to get them to embrace it, to communicate it, to make it credible for their members is a great way to get attractiveness for attendance, as well as sponsorships.”
    • Attending similar events can help generate ideas when it comes to planning your own event, says Wells.
  4. Revenue can come in many forms including tickets, photos, tables, sponsorships and geo-fencing.
    • American City Business Journals sells both tickets and corporate tables during their events. One example of a corporate table, says Silvy, is a VIP table, which is placed in a prime location and provides a company with benefits including recognition during the event and post-event marketing. According to Silvy, VIP tables have brought in as much revenue as sponsorships for some events.
    • Wells encourages using geo-fencing advertising. This type of advertising targets attendees’ mobile phones when they’re in the geographic boundaries of the event venue. After the event, news organizations can retarget attendees via geo-farming, says Wells.
    • Lane says GateHouse Media publications shoot photos during events to sell to attendees afterward.
  5. Events provide opportunities to engage with an audience, reach new demographics and provide unique experiences.
    • Create an event hashtag and provide picture-taking opportunities — such as a red carpet or a backdrop — so audience members can share photos on social media. Lane says GateHouse Media publications often collect photos and share them on a large screen during an event.
    • GateHouse Media publications put on family events to reach parents and children.
    • Lane says they conduct an interactive quiz on social media to engage with audiences before an event and then use the quiz to invite people to the event.


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