Traditional event planners could be seeing more competition from “nontraditional” event groups as media companies become increasingly reliant on events as a primary source of revenue. Business media association, American Business Media, for example, estimated that tradeshows made up 40 percent of total revenues for b-to-b media companies in 2011. That could be one reason why The Dallas Morning News is launching an independent event division.
“This is a hard trend where you’re seeing a traditional newspaper publisher say, ‘OK, our core business model is leveling off—how do we build new business and new opportunities to drive new revenues, create new experiences for our audience, and engage partners and advertisers?’” asks Alison Draper (pictured), general manager of the new CrowdSource event company owned by The Dallas Morning News.
The new independent event business has formed to meet the operational, marketing and promotional needs of event organizers and live event producers in a variety of categories. CrowdSource will create partnerships with event producers and others to provide an array of business and operational services, as well as branding and marketing that leverages the audience relationships of the portfolio of products produced by The Dallas Morning News.
“I’m really focused on taking a look at events that are best practiced in a vertical around the country and looking to bring them to Dallas with a really strong eye toward sponsorship,” says Draper. “My strategy will be to talk to top Dallas-based corporations and ask if they were going to produce an event of their own, what would it look like? I’ll be going out and looking at an event with an eye toward determining which partners fit. I’ll be looking at finding the right events that provide opportunities and either scale or attract them to come to our market.”
Draper adds that CrowdSource, on a case-by-case basis, will look to leverage its media and audience assets in addition to existing relationships in the local marketplace.
“We’re going to be very deliberate in our approach,” she says. “We’re not interested in trying things and seeing how they work—we’ll be much more strategic on the upfront. It’s not my intention to have a full staff as a normal event-production company would. I will partner strategically with people who have expertise in certain areas, like pipe and drape, tradeshows or content providers. We will serve more as a facilitator and creative partner.”
Draper says that The Dallas Morning News will begin to execute operational, marketing and promotional strategies for live events in categories ranging from education and technology to entertainment and sports.
One example Draper provided for growing events through partnerships came from her time as publisher of the newsweekly the Chicago Reader. She worked with the event team of the Pitchfork Music Festival to help them execute and solve their problems, ultimately working to assist them in growing their event.
“I challenged my marketing team to drive revenue, but create experiences for our loyal readers that would further their loyalty to our brand,” she says. “I asked the event planner what their challenge was when it came to growing their event.”
One of their biggest challenges, says Draper, was having so many people cycling to the event and locking bikes up in the area. The general manager looked to solve the problem, but also turn it into a sponsorship opportunity.
“We created a biker’s village,” says Draper. “We solved the problem and made it an experience for the attendee. It provided an interesting component for the consumer: They got to park their bikes and have a designated spot. Community cycling partners offered bike inspections, greased the chains, aired the tires and gave a report on the cyclist’s lock and safety. Riders also got a backpack with (branded) giveways. Everything was organic in terms of the sponsorship—it wasn’t banners in your face, but a true engagement in the consumer experience, and I intend to do more of that here. We brought all of our own sponsorship in—it solves problems for their event but allows us to share in the business.”