The Effect of “Online” on the Event Industry

Newspapers and other print-focused publications have been hit hard by the migration of readers to the Internet.  Is the event industry facing a similar challenge?  It seems so, especially in today’s economic climate, when travel costs are receiving heightened scrutiny from the CFO.  In a previous blog post, I predicted that 2009 would be the Year We Go Virtual, as we witness a very sharp decline in the number of face-to-face events.

In a blog post titled “Are bloggers & social networks killing the big shows?“, Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) presents a similar view.  To quote Robert:

My sponsor, Seagate, told me they are reducing their spend this year at CES. AMD and Delphi are doing the same thing and I’m hearing about many other companies who will either stop going, or reduce the size of their booths, either this year, if they could, or in 2010 (contracts make it tough to shrink booths as fast as companies might want).

And here’s one reason why:

What’s killing them? The Internet. You can launch a product live now from a living room. Thanks to Stickam, Ustream, Qik, Kyte, YouTube, Flixwagon, Viddler, Vimeo, SmugMug, etc and blogs.

I agree with Robert, though I’d add that in the B-to-B space, you might want to launch a product from a studio (vs. your living room) and extend the reach of social networks by partnering with B-to-B publishers in your space.  The fact remains, though, that there are low-cost means for capturing, publishing and distributing video and related multimedia for launching and evagenlizing your products and services.

And, with active social nets like Facebook and Twitter, you have a cost effective publishing system for quickly spreading the word, assuming you’re spreading the right message to the right people and not spamming the universe.  I’ve seen Virtual Tradeshows as a great vehicle for handling product launches – they include the live keynote video from an executive, the follow-on presentations (Webcasts/Videocasts) and the discussions/networking (online) that you’d typically see at a physical launch event.

Of course, when you’re online, everything can be tracked and reported on.  And, you extend the reach of the content/event beyond geographical boundaries.  As Robert said, I can pitch my product from my living room.  And an IT Pro in Hong Kong can be on the receiving end of my pitch!  Another benefit of online is passalong, which can make a video, podcast or virtual event go viral.  With physical events, that’s just not possible.

While the newspaper industry is still seeking a magic potion to shift their revenues from print to online, I think the event industry should consider 2009 as the year where complementary versions of their events get launched online.  After all, that’s where we all are.

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