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April 16, 2008

Events industry embraces digital content

The most recent figures for EVENTS:review show a 35.2% month-on-month growth in viewership over the past six months, and with the launch of the site’s online careers section, May looks certain to top that figure by some way. Other recent news from around the industry would also seem to reflect the growing pressure digital is putting on traditional forms of publishing, such as our esteemed 'colleague' Mike Fletcher at Event magazine being promoted to focus on developing the magazine’s web presence.

While this may not be the sounding of the death knell for B2B publishing as we know it, a string of recent statistics show a definite shift in our content consumption as a society, and the events industry is obviously now able to embrace this change.

We're spending more time online

The big news at the back end of last year was that, for the first time, European consumers were revealed to be spending more time online (up to four hours per week, from two hours the previous year) than reading newspapers and magazines (static at three hours per week).

What's more, according to the report by research company Jupiter, the rapid spread of broadband internet connections is only likely to accelerate this trend. The report found that average time spent online by broadband customers in Europe was seven hours a week, compared with two hours for those with dial-up connections.

In the US, the figures are even more striking, claims the report, with adults spending up to 14 hours a week watching TV and 14 hours online, compared with 11 hours watching TV and 10 hours online two years ago. Young adults, aged 18 to 24, spend about 10 hours a week online, two hours more than they spend watching TV. Many don't even own TVs, but have laptops.

“The fact that internet consumption has passed print consumption is an important landmark for the establishment of the internet in Europe,” said Mark Mulligan, research director at Jupiter. “This shift in the balance of power will increasingly shape content distribution strategies, advertising spend allocation and communication strategies.”

New media generation

The research found “a very clear new media/old media generational divide”, Mulligan said. Under-25s now spend six hours a week online – that's half the time they spend watching television, but three times that devoted to print. “Their habits are going to change the face of the web as they become more mainstream,” added Mulligan.

On top of this, comes last month’s news from the Association of Online Publishers, which stated that its members had, on average, experienced a 60% increase in turnover in 2006. What's more, the association is predicting an average 72% rise for 2007, with digital providing 12% of members’ overall revenue.

The figures show that advertising contributes the largest share of online revenue for digital publishers at 75%. Display advertising (including sponsorship) contributes 59% of overall income, classifieds 16% and paid-for content (including syndication) 12%. Revenue from paid-for content increased by 50% in 2006.

Broadly speaking
“The proliferation of broadband is definitely the driving force behind this change,” said ER’s joint editor in chief, Pete Roythorne. “I was at trade publisher VNU Business Publications at the end of the 1990s when magazines first tried to make the switch to online, declaring the days of the printed page numbered. Of course, subsequently this shift failed – dramatically – to live up to its hype, but, in my opinion, that was simply because the technological infrastructure was just not there to deliver the necessary content… Now it is. And while I don’t believe for a moment this marks the end of the trade magazine, as publishers, we should all be taking this media stream seriously. Indeed from my experience, most trade publishers – even the most risk averse – are putting serious thought and money into developing their magazines’ online presence.”

ER’s content is currently circulated to over 83,000 people actively involved in the live communications sector, and the website is constantly working with its partners, including Tarsus and Live Marketing News, as well as its major sponsors and some of the more proactive organisers, to distribute relevant content to their communities. Online content distribution offers a series of other benefits over traditional printed media, not least that it has much less environmental impact and you are able to distribute information to a targeted circulation a lot quicker.

Online recruitment

This has been a key factor behind the recent relaunch of ER’s online jobs section. “By electronically marketing these opportunities to our databases, we have been able to deliver over 250 potential placements in the most carbon-friendly way possible, and at the same time doing it quickly and efficiently,” said ER’s director of content Neil Jones. “Traditional publishers will be printing and distributing these jobs on reprocessed rain forest in about six weeks time when those opportunities will have been taken already.

“It`s been very encouraging that we have got so many wishes of good luck with our careers site from recruitment agencies that can post their jobs freely, get immediate and measurable response, while at the same time delivering a greener and more efficient service to their customers in the process,” continued Jones. “It's high time that we all took a more responsible attitude to the carbon bi-products of our actions and one way we can do that is by going down the digital route to market our jobs.”

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