In addition to its digital efforts, the publisher organises and hosts hundreds of B2C and B2B events around the world, which in some cases attract more than 2,000 visitors, including many non-subscribers who the FT aims to win round.
James Gunnell, head of FT Live, the FT Group’s global events division, discussed the company’s strategy with Drum columnist Ian Burrell, the former media editor at the Independent.
He said FT Live and its 80-strong team currently runs 200 events in 44 countries, although he intends to concentrate on fewer, but bigger, events in the future that generate more revenue.
For example, the FT Weekend Festival took place recently at Kenwood House – a beautiful, former stately home on the edge of central London – where more than 2,600 attendees mixed wine-tasting and cultural activities with listening to expert opinion on issues such as the economy and Brexit.
Guests also heard from FT editor Lionel Barber, who broke new ground by discussing forthcoming editorials in public, and a host of journalists, many of whom receive special media training from FT Live.
Backed by a major marketing push, subscriptions to FT Weekend are up 6% year-on-year, while bundled subscriptions that include the weekday editions are up 13% over the year, and Gunnell said the festival plays an important role in boosting readership.
“You meet people at the Weekend Festival who only subscribe to the weekend edition and there is an opportunity for us to engage with them and get them onto the weekday [content] as well,” he said.
Other recent events have included a renewable energy summit in Buenos Aires and a conference about Brexit in Frankfurt, while this week will see FT Live stage a forum on risk management in New York, a leadership briefing in Hong Kong and a summit in Cote d’Ivoire about the future of banking.
And for Gunnell and his team, the coming year is likely to be even busier. “We are looking to get next year’s date set and go bigger,” he said. “There’s lots we can do; the more people through the door, the more sponsorship behind the events, means we can get more ambitious with what we can do.”
Data sourced from The Drum; additional content by WARC staff