Nielsen duo develops ambitious schedule of profitable Web events

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Two years ago, Elliot Markowitz and Eric Biener joined Nielsen Business Media as editorial director for webcasts/digital events and director of webcasts, respectively. The duo, who previously worked together developing the PCMagCast brand at Ziff Davis Media, created a new centralized department to support Web events across more than 30 Nielsen Business Media brands. Last year, they oversaw 40 webinars across the company, which had produced fewer than 10 the previous year. This year, they expect to produce 85. In addition, Markowitz and Biener launched Nielsen Business Media into the virtual trade show business, with two events in 2007 and eight slated for this year. Markowitz declined to say how much the webcast and virtual events business is worth to Nielsen Business Media, but, he said, “We're making money. Every webcast and virtual event is profitable.” Before he and Biener arrived, each brand “would stumble on an opportunity once in a while, but it wasn't any kind of a growth business,” Markowitz said. The centralized webinar department at Nielsen now includes Markowitz providing editorial services, two full-time producers handling logistics, two salespeople who accompany brand salespeople on calls to provide specific expertise on Web events, and Biener, who was promoted about a year ago to VP-business development but continues to oversee webcasts. Markowitz works with the brand editors to identify topics from their editorial calendars that could be attractive to attendees and sponsors, writes topic descriptions, recruits and trains speakers, and acts as a liaison between the editorial staff and the sponsor “so that the brand editors don't feel they are crossing lines of church and state.” He minimizes the amount of work falling to editors. Other than helping him identify topics for Web seminars, “all the editors do is, one, give us a list of potential speakers and, two, give a five-to-eight-minute presentation to kick off the web-cast,” he said. The vast majority of webcasts at Nielsen are editorially driven and sponsored. They include a market overview by a Nielsen brand/market editor and presentations from analysts and industry experts or roundtable discussions. The sponsor is able to provide a speaker for a five-to-seven-minute presentation. For the 5% to 10% of the webcasts that are custom—or vendor-driven—Markowitz provides the editorial services in lieu of a brand editor. With its fast-growing virtual trade show offerings, Nielsen “tries to replicate everything you would have in a live event online,” Markowitz said. That includes three or four educational webcasts per day; a trade show with virtual booths where exhibitors can chat with attendees and provide downloadable information; and forums and virtual lounges where attendees can interact with one another. Although getting sales leads is one of the primary incentives for webcast sponsors and exhibitors at virtual trade shows, “we aren't selling these as lead-generation vehicles,” Markowitz said. “We try to steer the conversation toward the value of a four-month marketing campaign with a measurable return on investment.” M
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