Business Press: The Blossoming Relationship between Publishers and Event Organisers - Tim Woolgar says the increasingly popular business of organising events around a successful magazine title is changing the way publishers operate

In a resurgent economy with confidence booming across a range of industry sectors, there’s no business like the business magazine business.

In a resurgent economy with confidence booming across a range of

industry sectors, there’s no business like the business magazine


Over the past five years, growth has been spectacular with the number of

titles up by 48 per cent. And the growth forecast for the next five

years, although more modest, is still impressive at 29 per cent.

The figures come from a 1996 Periodicals Publishers Association survey

of 33 leading British publishers. The report also highlights the rapid

expansion of publishing groups into related marketing areas,

specifically exhibitions, conferences, database marketing, list rental

and electronic products.

The number of events associated with magazines increased by 76 per cent

between 1991 and 1996 and a 48 per cent increase is expected by the year

2001. Alyson Cook, editor of Haymarket Publishing’s recently launched

title, Marketing Event, says the exhibitions sector is growing at a

nearly equal pace. ’Spending on exhibitions has grown at more than twice

the rate of spending on TV advertising in the past ten years,’ she says.

’In 1994, expenditure on UK exhibitions was pounds 929 million - that’s

pounds 150 million more than the combined adspend in consumer magazines,

cinema and radio.’

Haymarket, which publishes Campaign magazine, has its own exhibitions

company, a joint venture with the BBC. The company, BBC Haymarket

Exhibitions, currently runs shows that include the Clothes Show Live,

Gardener’s World and the Children’s BBC Big Bash with Coca-Cola. This

year sees the launch of Marketing 97, an exhibition backed by Haymarket

and the publisher, UN Miller Freeman (part of United News and


The PPA deputy chief executive, Peter Dear, says: ’When advertisers

approach a publisher now they can expect a ratecard showing not just

various publications but also a list of exhibitions, conferences, award

shows plus electronic products, databases and directories.’

Link-ups between magazines and exhibitions are nothing new. Exhibition

organisers have long realised that a respected trade or professional

publication provides valuable credibility.

More and more publishers are maximising the strength of their own titles

by moving into the exhibitions arena.

Last year UN Miller Freeman and the exhibition organiser, Blenheim

Exhibitions, merged. One successful result of the merger was a

strengthened relationship between the Cabinet Maker, UN Miller Freeman’s

leading home interiors title, and the Furniture Show, one of Blenheim’s

biggest UK events.

Cabinet Maker became involved with the Furniture Show in 1992 as a means

of promoting the ever-popular ingredient of the marketing mix, the

industry awards ceremony. Patrick Wade, the publishing director of

Cabinet Maker, says: ’The exhibition is an obvious platform to stage the

Furniture Industry Awards. We got together with Blenheim and our

co-sponsors, the manufacturer, Vitafoam, to form a working party with

representatives from each company.’

The result has been positive, with the show doubling in size over the

past five years with an estimated 30,000 visitors seeing 750 exhibitors

this year. The awards, too, have become firmly established, with more

than a thousand people attending the latest show held at the NEC


Wade says of the merger: ’We are now looking beyond our titles to serve

our markets in different ways, bringing publishing together with

exhibitions, awards and conferences as well as direct marketing and now

electronic publishing.’

Blenheim’s event director, William Mann, has long been aware of the

advantages of getting into bed with magazines, but he says from his

perspective it is essential to join forces with the right title.

’The most important factor is finding a magazine that’s going to reach

the target audience. That usually means going for the one with the

biggest circulation. But it’s not always the case, - the brand image is


’Overall, the benefits are mutual. We buy advertising space in the

magazine, it buys stand space at the show. It can usually undertake the

printing of brochures, catalogues and other material for the show at

advantageous rates. It’s often worked out with contra-deals and everyone

benefits from the overall publicity.’

UN Miller Freeman aims to optimise the benefits of this kind of

horse-trading by having both partners in the same stable. But Gary

Marshall, the group’s head of operations for Europe and Asia, says the

most important factor is the way the two operations fit together

strategically. ’There has to be good synergy between the two, both

geographically on an international level and from the point of view of

product base. Merger or acquisition doesn’t make sense just for the sake

of growth.’

The alternative to merger is to build your own integrated marketing

group from the ground up. One of the first companies to recognise the

benefits of convergent marketing in the publishing sector was Nexus

Media. Its co-founders, Roger Patey and Tony Doyle, raised pounds 28

million through City investment on the premise of launching a

multi-disciplinary publishing and integrated marketing company. Doyle,

Nexus Media’s chief executive, says: ’We were fortunate enough to be

setting up at a time when, as we saw it, this approach was becoming


Nexus Media has three managing directors who oversee the senior business

managers running special groups which represent particular market

sectors such as horticulture or information technology. Doyle explains:

’Within each group we have magazines, conferences, exhibitions, awards

and so on.

’The idea came as a response to the fact that there was a lot less

revenue about in the 90s than there was in the 80s. Bringing different

disciplines under one grouping was a cost-effective and streamlined

approach to management.’

Nexus provides a convincing case. ’The company’s turnover has grown from

pounds 7 million in 1993 to pounds 45 million,’ Doyle says. And while he

concedes much of that has come about through acquisition, there has also

been substantial growth from within.

On a cautionary note, Doyle points out that Nexus has been successful by

a process of convergence rather than diversification. ’The magazine

generates respect week in, week out. The other activities perform their

own roles but the magazine remains the mother ship.’

As exhibitions, conferences and associated events continue to grow, the

biggest uncharted area for most publishers is electronic publishing.

Last year’s PPA survey reports that there has been a 1,000 per cent

increase in electronic publishing activity over the past five years and

a continuation of this trend is predicted. The survey also suggests that

publishers are showing a vigorous interest in the Internet although, for

now, specific opportunities in this sector remain poorly defined.