Using events to boost revenues and engagement

Credit: Daily Maverick

As many established sources of revenue have dried up, a growing number of media organizations have been experimenting with using events to increase revenues and deepen engagement with their audience.

Events can take many forms and cover a wide range of topics, from huge in-person industry conferences to intimate expert conversations, often devised to reward existing members and attract new ones. Monetization often centres on a combination of partnerships and sponsorships, ticket sales and advertising. Here are some recent examples of different types of event hosted by media companies MDIF works with.

Thousands interact on national and global issues

In November 2022, South African online news outlet Daily Maverick organized its yearly member event The Gathering, bringing together panels of experts to discuss solutions to some of the world’s and South Africa’s most challenging problems and how to build a better South Africa. Speakers included South African politicians from across the spectrum, and leading local and international media personalities and journalists. Discussions were held on topics ranging from the world’s faltering economy to organized crime. The Gathering was free for members, with a small fee for non-members. With an estimated 2,800 participants per day, the event was funded through partnerships and sponsorships (such as Uber, global investment manager Ninety One and Friedrich Naumann Foundation) and provided Daily Maverick with a great opportunity to engage with their members and readers, as well as giving the company and event sponsors a major branding boost.

Hybrid event connects local and national media

In late October 2022, Suara, a digital media network in Indonesia, hosted a four-day hybrid event attended by hundreds of media representatives from across the country, along with individual content creators and representatives from national journalism associations, the Indonesian Press Council, ad agencies and Google. Funded by grants and sponsorships, the Local Media Summit offered media from the regions a chance to introduce their products and services to a wider audience and talk to experts to help them solve their newsrooms and business problems. Topics covered included podcast business models and latest monetization ideas, start-up funding opportunities and new technology and content innovations. It also produced ideas and recommendations for local media to drive their business development.

Building brand and engagement in Central America and beyond

In November 2022, Salvadorean outlet El Faro ran El #ForoCAP2022, its annual press freedom event covering citizenship and journalism and bringing together some of the most active and influential regional and global media professionals. Due to security concerns, it was held in Guatemala. Experts ran workshops and discussions on topics such as photojournalism, covering violence and podcast journalism, with high-profile panelists including El Faro co-founder Carlos Dada and leading Colombian journalist and editor (and MDIF Board member) María Teresa Ronderos. The event was largely monetized through sponsorship from international partners and remains an important part of El Faro’s brand-building and engagement efforts.

 Planning is key to impact

Hosting can be burdensome and media need to give careful thought to the resources – human and financial – that are needed to produce an event that delivers. Though poor organization and weak content can negatively impact both brand and engagement, with careful planning and attention to detail, most media are well-positioned to leverage audience, sponsors and experts to create events that produce lasting impact.

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