News publishers hold natural advantages in evolving events space

By Razlan Manjaji

South China Morning Post

Hong Kong, China


As the year draws to a close, 2022 marks somewhat of a revival for the events industry. There are more conferences, trade shows, exhibitions, and various other formats for in-person activations taking place daily.

This is especially encouraging for publishers active in the event space. The South China Morning Post is seeing continued renewal of interest in our events from delegates, sponsors, and speakers alike. My team and I are obviously very happy for this long-awaited development.

As more brands enter the events space, publishers should consider how they can collaborate on these events to play to all businesses’ strengths.
As more brands enter the events space, publishers should consider how they can collaborate on these events to play to all businesses’ strengths.

However, it would be a mistake to think that we are on the path to a full return to the pre-pandemic era for event organising and attendance. Consumer behaviour and expectations have fundamentally changed, and orchestrating and demonstrating a world-class experiential value proposition is now the key to running a successful events business in this new normal.

Of the myriad changes we have to grapple with, one of the most salient trends taking hold within the publishing sector is the prevalence of brand-owned events.

Simply put, brand-owned events are events developed and driven by brands. Brands have now begun to act as event organisers, taking control of the conception, programming, and delivery. This is in contrast to simply adopting the role of sponsor, which is what previously happened.

If we consider the benefits of in-house operations and brand positioning, it is plain to see why brands choose to run and own their events. It is my view that the trend of in-house production compels publishers to take this incredible opportunity to re-evaluate and identify areas of collaboration between brands and publishers in delivering a calibre of events that meets a higher standard than ever before.

The convening power of a media brand

The nature of the news publishing industry is anchored in a diversity of connections, relationships, and trust with newsmakers, as well as industry influencers, business leaders, and public officials. Media brands derive their unmatched advantage here from their deep expertise in producing news coverage and content.

Leveraging these relationships, news organisations are able to build on their brand authority to convene unrivalled line-ups of speakers and attendees in a way that any other brand would be hard-placed to replicate.

The authority of events by publishers

Another unique strength of publishers is their inherent thought leadership authority, which is generally acknowledged and respected within their reader segments. This offsets any subjective differentiation that brands could adopt to set themselves apart from their competitors or establish new platforms.

The resulting branded content may at times appear overtly promotional, alienating key audience groups by failing to inform and engage with compelling messages and takeaways.

Publishers, on the other hand, are able to fill that gap by translating the objectivity of their research and news coverage into their events. Through debate, discussion panels, and dialogue, we give voice to everyone who partakes in the conversation. This increases our overall appeal, trust, and relevance to broader audiences.

The effectiveness of publisher-run events

While brands run events as one of many marketing channels, news organisations view events as key pillars of their business. SCMP runs events on an almost weekly basis, and it is in our interest that our events are run as effectively and efficiently as possible.

The scalability of resources, such as broadcasting virtual content, building relationships with event vendors, and the extent to which we can draw on audience engagement tools, are among the advantages available to news publishers. These same things are cost-prohibitive for brands that want to pursue their own in-house events strategy. News organisations like SCMP are equipped to tap into existing resources that we have already negotiated and secured to run our robust calendar of events, day in and day out.

More importantly, instead of working in silos — and, at times, in competition with each other — brands and publishers should work collaboratively on events of mutual interest. More often than not, these potential areas for partnership are overlooked.

SCMP explores sponsorship arrangements that draw on our own strengths as well as those of our partners to create synergy in executing major events in our portfolio.

The benefits are twofold:

  • SCMP raises the profit margins for our events.
  • The brands we work with are able to benefit from sponsor entitlements and boost their own revenue streams.


As the world continues to find its footing in a post-pandemic landscape, there will be space and opportunities for both brands and publishers to run events more effectively. I would strongly encourage publishers to embrace thought leadership roles in events — as they should — and proactively reach out to brands to explore collaborations that reinforce each other’s strengths.

About Razlan Manjaji

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