Let’s kick off the blog by addressing a fairly straightforward question – What impact will virtual events have on the events industry.
In looking at two industries that have already dealt with a digital transition, there are two possible paths that the events industry will travel during this transition. One follows the path of the retail industry and the other follows the path of the print publishing industry.
Here’s a perspective based on my experience in each industry.
In the mid 90’s newspaper and magazines foretold the death of retail stores with headlines like “Malls are dead” and “Clicks will replace bricks”. Remember? As publisher of a trade magazine serving the retail industry, I produced the first conference on the subject of online retailing. Over the next four years I organized trade shows on “eRetailing” in NY, San Jose, London and Tokyo and witnessed the transition first hand.
In response to the perceived threat, retailers by and large embraced the challenge and figured out how to integrate digital tools and interactive media into their operations as a distinct channel to serve customers. Systems were developed to facilitate an effective coordination between a retailer’s physical and online retailing presence. In short, they figured out how to leverage the strengths of each channel to serve their customers more effectively.
Alternatively, during the last 6-7 years, the press has foretold the demise of print media in response to consumers preference for information delivered online. While some print publishers have figured out how to evolve their print product to serve a unique roll, most are still just taking the content generated for their print product and posting it to their “website”. As we sit here today, many publishers are still struggling with how to have their print and online products serve unique and complementary roles and pure play online publishers are growing their share of readers’ time and advertising budgets.
So what’s the point? In my opinion, retailers figured out how to make interactive media a friend, while publishers are for the most part still struggling to “get it” as the headlines of newspapers and magazines shutting down accelerate.
Widely available high speed internet access and the emergence of Web 2.0 applications have placed the events industry in the cross hairs of a digital transition. Event organizers are now being forced to select a path.
In considering the question at the top of this post, two questions come to mind:
What was the difference in how retailers and publishers addressed the emergence of digital media?
Which of these two paths will the event industry travel?
What do you think?