United Business Media threw its full weight behind the expansion of its year-old virtual events division last month, reorganizing to maximize growth not only of in-house but also external online events.“We have new products that we have taken to market that are being demanded by our customers,” said Kate Spellman, head of the division. (She was named an exec VP of UBM in March.) Spellman oversaw the 2010 debut of UBM Studios, a division that has helped the company more than triple its number of virtual events. Almost all of the 103 events held last year were organized for UBM media brands, she said, but the development of custom products including evergreen environments offers a new revenue stream. “This year, we'll be much more focused on working externally.”
Spellman spoke to Media Business about demand for virtual events, marketing automation as a service and why media companies are uniquely poised to move into this market.
Media Business: What value does the virtual events market bring to UBM?
Kate Spellman: UBM has more than 300 live events, and our feeling was that online is an integral part of events. We have a background of serving our audience with the right content in the right place. We developed this group so we can understand what is happening in the market, how virtual events are being used and how they could best be a component with live events and also online.
MB: How does your market position drive interest in your custom virtual events?
Spellman: Our expertise is content, audience, events and service. We're really bringing all of those together in what we're calling marketing automation as a service.
You want a strong platform, but it is the information and journey that you deliver to the audience in order to engage them that make [virtual events] successful. That's our expertise. We bring marketing audience data together with our event experience. We know the furniture to put in the room. It's cost-effective to bring us in, to have us take care of that portion and to help marketers meet their goals.
MB: What do you expect to see over the next year?
Spellman: My focus is on making the business scalable. You'll see a large increase [in the number of virtual events]; but we're getting much more focused on marketing as a service and really looking at what products work and make sense to market. Last year we were much more focused on the learning experience.
We're also working internally with the UBM divisions, and we are seeing huge interest. They see it as an additional component of their events at large. It's a very natural happening across the board, and I see that beyond UBM.
We do sell separately from the UBM divisions, but the UBM divisions have been the strongest external channel that we have. The audience expertise is different for each division. Technology, medical and client solutions are growing rapidly. We're also seeing marketing as a service growing quickly. This whole automation and being able to bring the data together is becoming important to marketers.
We will at least double [the number of virtual events we produce], but I feel focused on building the business in the right way.
MB: How are you marketing external services?
Spellman: We offer the turnkey place to go for your virtual event solution. We do everything from the very beginning, scoping out goals, determining the right product and delivering results with audience, content and data.
We're getting a lot of external inquiries. We know the products that work and how to bring them to market. We are in the process of developing the right consultants to bring in for that, which you'll see happen in the next month or two. At this point, it's all about calls coming in rather than us pushing out.