With the continued decline of print advertising revenue, The Dallas Morning News and other news organisations nationwide are searching for innovative ways to generate revenue. CrowdSource, the events division of the Morning News, has been tremendously successful thus far, becoming a significant new revenue source in just two years.
Building and cultivating alternative sources of revenue allow news organisations to remain focused on our journalistic mission – now and into the future.
Remember the following five keys to build a successful events business:
1. Hire a proven leader. It is difficult to be successful without a leader who can navigate you to the finish line. Search for someone with the personality of an entrepreneur, who also has a track record of creating a vision and executing it successfully.
Our leader, Alison Draper, has extensive publishing and event management experience. Perhaps most importantly, she is very well connected in the community, and those contacts have been instrumental in building our partnership list.
2. Recognise the power of your brand. Newspapers are defenders of democracy, serving as objective resources for the community. We also have the power to convey messages that carry weight in our communities. An events company backed by the local daily newspaper should not have trouble getting its foot in the door.
CrowdSource has instant credibility when communicating with potential partners, because it is backed by a powerful and trusted brand built on nearly 130 years of local journalism. We also have the largest newsroom in North Texas, and act as a trusted institution that isn’t motivated by purely financial or political gain.
3. Curate community participation. Naturally, successful events rely on community involvement. CrowdSource and the Morning News used Aurora, a free contemporary art exhibit, as a galvanising coming out party in Dallas, with more than 35,000 attending the festival in the Dallas Arts District. Aurora really served as a turning point for us, proving CrowdSource could be a successful venture.
Following Aurora, we expanded our events roster with Come Together, a panel discussion featuring the mayor and key local leaders, JFK Symposium, Future Dallas, and Festival of Ideas which focused on creative ways to improve Dallas. These events supported our brand, expressing desire for the betterment of our community.
4. Target audiences desirable to advertisers. Everyone in the newspaper industry can empathise with this plea. However, with CrowdSouce, we have selectively targeted events that appeal to a wide audience, making them valuable to potential new advertisers.
For example, here are a few CrowdSource events that have diversified our audience:
- The One Day University conference attracts many educated, higher-income and older Dallas residents by bringing in professors from across the country to discuss topics of interest.
- The aforementioned Aurora serves as a family event that also offers lucrative sponsorship opportunities.
- Savor Dallas, which was acquired by CrowdSource in July 2014, is a food, wine, and cultural event that captures a targeted and appealing niche demographic. This event is also supported by the Morning News’ Best in DFW series, where critics offer their top picks in dining, nightlife, movie houses, music venues, and more.
- Potentially most valuable is Untapped, a craft beer and music festival franchise, acquired in June 2014, that allows CrowdSource to capitalise on the elusive millennial market and also extend our geographic reach beyond Dallas. Untapped will span the state of Texas with 2015 events in Dallas, Houston, Ft. Worth, Denton, San Antonio, and Austin.
5. Involve your newsroom and reward subscribers. Don’t forget to leverage your biggest asset for each event – the newsroom! You must actively encourage coverage of these events by experts in the space. For example, we’ve created a craft beer blog, which correlates nicely with our recent purchase of Untapped.
Also, use these events to reward your current subscribers. We often provide advanced access and discounted rates to our events, which helps maintain our circulation and demonstrates how an events business can directly support a news organisation’s original mission.
If you have been thinking about starting an events business or if you have already done so, please keep these five keys in mind. They are working for The Dallas Morning News and we believe they can work for you.