Event fee-nomenon

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A growing number of magazine publishers are now offering educational events for readers to tap into the power of "experiential marketing," and admission fees are helping offset the costs.

Seminars and educational events are one of the fastest-growing category of magazine events, helping cement reader relationships and giving advertisers direct access to prospective customers in uncluttered settings.

And with some admission fees topping $2,000, the revenue-generating possibilities are not inconsiderable. Almost any type of magazine can jump in, be it bridal guide or business book. Readers appear willing to fork out for such events, turning educational programs into new revenue streams.


Bridal Guide is the lead sponsor of seminars this winter in Boston and New York, crafted by the newly created Wedding Institute. The 2-hour-plus seminars give readers and advertisers a more intimate alternative to mob-like bridal fairs and expos. For $20, engaged couples get information on six wedding-related topics: planning, services, travel, entertaining, health and fitness, and relationships.

Each attendee gets a free gift plus one-on-one marketing opportunities from key Bridal Guide advertisers, including Crane's Stationery, Egyptian Travel Authority, Group SEB's T-Fal and Waterford Crystal. Fuji Photo Film USA and Sandals Resorts also are sponsoring the seminars.

By 2001, the Wedding Institute plans to offer such seminars in 15 cities.

"Our magazine is a launch pad for readers seeking more wedding information on specific topics in a one-on-one setting, and the seminars reinforce our brand as an authority," said Susannah Pask, Bridal Guide's publisher.

Conferences have long been a successful platform for Forbes, but this year the financial magazine is boosting its events further, introducing its first such international activity, the Gilder/Forbes Telecosm Asia Conference in Singapore in March. It will be followed by Forbes' first-ever cruise, the Forbes Cruise for Investors, sailing in Europe June 21. Each event carries a hefty admission fee.

A magazine titled Upside offered seven conferences for executives last year, and for 2000 plans a total of nine including its first-ever business-to-business seminar in March in Palm Springs, Calif., with a fee of $2,495.

Exclusively for invited guests on its 200,000 controlled-circulation list, Upside's events are geared to generate news through the unveiling of the latest technology in certain sectors.


"The magazine fuels interest in business and technology topics; then we bring people together with content, and readers get tremendous benefits and networking opportunities from the one-on-one experience," said Tim G. Smith, VP-general manager of San Francisco-based Upside.

Hearst Magazines also is increasing its events combining entertainment with education.

Last year, Hearst introduced its "All-American Weekend," a three-day series of events in Newport, R.I., for upscale readers, including special breakout sessions showcasing individual magazine titles.

About 400 people paid $150 each to attend the sold-out "Weekend," responding to invitations sent to selected East Coast subscribers of Hearst magazines. The event also was promoted in various Hearst titles, and attendees came from around the U.S.

Hearst declared the event a resounding success and will reprise it in Newport this October, said Michael Clinton, senior VP-chief marketing officer for Hearst. The admission price may climb.


DaimlerChrysler was the overall presenting sponsor of 1999's "Weekend," showcasing four car models, and several other sponsors participated including jeweler Bailey Banks & Biddle, eTrade, Fleet Bank and Seagram Wine & Spirits' Herradura tequila. Each demonstrated and promoted its product within the event.

Included were lectures and film reviews from the editors of Esquire; a regatta overseen by the editors of Boating & Sailing; special tours of Newport mansions led by guides from Town & Country; a wine tasting hosted by SmartMoney; and a fashion brunch sponsored by Harper's Bazaar.

Sponsors also offered events within the event, including a lecture on historic decorating trends sponsored by fabric manufacturer Scalamandre that proved surprisingly popular, Mr. Clinton said.

"Readers are responding to the chance to get deeper information on subjects we cover in our magazines, which adds to our authority on these topics," he said.

Also at Hearst, Victoria is offering its third annual one-day entrepreneurial seminar this October in New York. More than 500 are expected to attend "Turning Your Passion Into Profits," each paying a $229 admission fee.


Next month, Hearst's Redbook offers its readers a weeklong seminar on relationships to be conducted in Bermuda by John Gray's Mars Venus Institute. A "non-denominational minister" will be on hand so that Redbook's couples can renew their wedding vows.

"Events that build on our magazines' content are becoming an increasingly important part of our brand strategy," Mr. Clinton said.

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