Media 10 has turned over £4m during the pandemic thanks to their digital strategy, founder and CEO Lee Newton says.
Sat on the balcony overlooking the packed Ideal Home Christmas Show at Olympia London, Media 10 directors Newton and Rob Nathan disagree with a lot of the sentiment heard in the exhibitions industry in the past three months.
They may have had the most successful indoor show of 2021 with 50,000 visitors from 24 to 28 November, and a record rebook, but they are not scared to “buck the trend”. They are chasing the digital dream but they have no time for virtual events.
“We’re not your traditional exhibition organiser. We like the entrepreneurial spirit,” says Nathan.
“There are a lot of people saying ‘we are back, live is best and virtual doesn’t work’.
“We never went down the road of doing virtual events. We didn’t do Grand Designs and as a virtual event. We never did virtual because we don’t believe virtual events work. But there is money to be made by looking at your brands and what digital assets you build around those brands.
“I think we have made 20 times more than any other organiser from digital, but we are not doing those events digitally.”
Media 10 is instead harnessing the power of its exhibition communities with other digital products. Bolstered by the sale of Design Shanghai to Clarion shortly before the pandemic hit, Newton says they had the confidence and financial security to take a different approach.
Talk to your audience
Newton explains: “Over lockdown we launched a newsletter business – completely digital using all our data and brands and we have turned over quite a few million from that in just the last few months. We now have a parallel business running of digital publishing.
“What we have done is bought a digital aggregator of news. We have turned over £4m and all it comes from exhibitions.
“It means we are talking to our audience everyday – both exhibitors as well our businesses. It means we’re becoming conduits for them to find out what’s going on in their marketplace.
“We’re building new brands which may result in shows in their own rights.
“People are saying we can all forget about digital now and get back to what we know, but that is so out of touch. We’ve turned over £4m from digital and we haven’t done anything. We haven’t tried to build a live event on a computer screen.”
Newton and Nathan say other exhibition organisers are shortsighted not to see the real potential of digital products.
Their new digital platform uses AI to aggregate the top five news stories on any given subject, which they can sell advertising around and then send to their existing exhibition audiences.
“We are putting the buyer and seller together,” says Newton.
“You have the brand of your exhibition, data of all the exhibitors and sponsors, you’ve got relationships and you know what they spend, then you’ve got the data of all the visitors.
“If you launch any kind of product, magazine or website, you need to find out who wants to read it and you’ve got to find who wants to advertise to them and you’ve already got all that.
“Within a day we can launch a brand new newsletter on any subject. We have now got 20 extra newsletter with no extra staff.”
It is not the end of events
Nathan says it takes just 10 minutes to send one of their daily newsletters to 150,000 construction professionals, turning over hundreds of thousands of pounds.
But their diversified business is definitely not the end of events.
“We are probably the only event organiser who talks to all their audiences every day,” adds Nathan.
“It’s a protection thing and we are now a rounded media business. We can say ‘we’ll sell you a stand at the show, a seat at the conference, a talk on a stage, a page in a magazine, a page in a digital mag or we can market you to our audiences through geolocating or you can go on one of our 40 newsletters’.
“We have only seen that generate more revenue through stands.
“We’re a media business and we happen to run events and they make up 80% of our revenue. But last year they made 0% of our revenue and we didn’t just sit back and say let’s sit on our hands
Growth potential in digital markets
Newton is convinced that there is huge growth potential for exhibition organisers in digital markets.
“Pick your best client,” he challenges his competitors.
“He may spend £100k a year with you in events. If he’s doing that, he’s probably spending £1m, £10m even, on digital.
“He’s not going to do any less shows, as long as the shows continue working. But his digital spend is growing every day. He’ll spend more in digital next year that last year. Will he spend more on shows? Possibly not. That money, he might pull it out of TV, of radio or tube advertising, because they’re all not working anymore. Live events are working, which is fantastic. So is digital.”
Why go after 1%?
To hammer home the point Nathan adds: “70p in every pound is spent online and 1p in every pound is spent in exhibitions. Digital is now 65% of all advertising spend. Why go after the 1% when you can go after the 70%?
“We changed our philosophy. A lot of our competitors are now saying ‘that’s it. Exhibitions are back and we can go back to that’.
But we’re saying ‘No. That’s the start of it and we want to build £4m, £10m whatever’.”