Publishers not ready to jump into virtual events can derive some of the same benefits from hosting individual educational sessions, or webinars. Asking the right questions of attendees (via registration forms or audience polls)—such as if they are planning to buy a certain type of equipment in the next 30 days—can go a long way toward building quality leads, says Nick Balletta, CEO of TalkPoint. Webinars are also compatible with paid content models; last year, TalkPoint handled more than $2 million in pay-per-view transactions through the company's e-commerce process, he says.
Webinars and virtual events can be great ways for publishers to leverage subscriber and contact lists to sponsors' advantage, Molay says. Webinars hosted by the publisher, but featuring content provided by the sponsor, can be promoted to a magazine's subscribers, attracting valuable leads for the presenter. "Done properly, this can be a triple win," Molay says. "The audience gets access to relevant subject matter they care about, the third-party businesses get exposure to new contacts, and the publisher gets revenues and a reputation as a value provider. Done incorrectly, the publisher is seen as a pushy marketer willing to waste their contacts' time in exchange for nothing more than an obvious marketing pitch."
When planning to host a webinar, Balletta says, avoid the temptation to throw all effort into the marketing side at the expense of good content. "Revenue people start thinking this is low-hanging fruit, and become so focused on sponsorship dollars, they start losing their audience," he warns. "The idea is to get face-time with the sponsors to try to glean that revenue stream, but sometimes [presenters] miss the need to be thoughtful in terms of what content they are going to distribute. … The idea is to get people to want to come back on a regular basis. That's what [really] drives sponsorships."