The premature funeral for events

Digiday 28 May 2020 04:01
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May 28, 2020 by Brian Morrissey

The coronavirus crisis is hitting all parts of the publishing business, but none harder than the events business lines. The lockdowns and health concerns have made events impossible to hold, even illegal in many places. Big publishers, including The Economist and The Atlantic, have shrunk their events teams. David Bradley, longtime chairman of The Atlantic, was blunt in his bleak picture for events:

“In one week in March, maybe two, the ground fell out from under live events — live anything — worldwide.  Of necessity, our events work went virtual. It turns out, there is substantial room for original creation in a Zoom-led frame on life; to begin, we are able to bring our writers into conversation with our readers – at a scale no hotel ballroom can match. Even so, all of us hope for that day when we can create, or contribute to, signature events such as The Atlantic Festival and the Aspen Ideas Festival.”

NiemanLab immediately rushed to declare a “death knell” for events as a “savior.” (Journalists love to declare deaths prematurely. See: all the obituaries for email.) Most of the upheaval in the media business has been merely an acceleration of existing trends, from the demise of direct-sold displays to pressures on unprofitable and bloated companies to the pivot to direct revenue in the form of subscriptions and finally to the need for a diversified model. But events were the good guys. They were the antithesis of the flimsy business models of the scale era, where publishers were chasing ever bigger numbers of audience, views, clicks by any means necessary. Events were about community. They were the bulwark of a smaller, more meaningful and sustainable media model. 

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AtlanticNiemanLabDigiday MediaDavid BradleyThe Economist
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