How Free Content and Paid Research Are Building One Publisher’s Event Business

Share |

Traditional publishing was likened to a three-legged stool: editorial, audience and advertising all fed into and off each other. Today a new (potentially higher margin) trifecta is starting to emerge with events, media and market intelligence driving customers across a publisher’s portfolio.

Boston-based Greentech Media serves the green energy space and its research and subscription services account for almost two-thirds of its overall revenue. Events are a growing part of Greentech’s business and benefiting from the exposure generated by its free content products and the deep dive of its paid market intelligence business.

“It’s hard to say that because people went to a conference, we were able to sign up X subscribers, but it does work that way, each business feeds another,” said Greentech CEO Scott Clavenna, who spoke at the recent SIPA-Connectiv summit New Secrets of Successful Events. “As a line item, our marketing budget is small, just half a percent of our revenue. But our media business is our marketing vehicle, generating 370,000 uniques and 1 million page views per month.”

Step 1: Drive Interest and Audience with Content

The Solar Summit was Greentech’s first conference and has grown from 115 attendees to 700 over the last decade. To launch event, Greentech created a new content section on its website serving the topic of solar energy which enabled it to build an initial prospect list of 20,000 names.

Step 2: Sink Your Hooks in with Unique Data and Analysis

Greentech then launched a quarterly data series which prompted a major trade association in the solar energy space to tap the publisher as its official partner. Greentech’s market analysts published market research reports that served as content fodder, while the market analysts themselves served as speakers and moderators at the event.    

 Step 3: Gather the Community (and Collect the Money)

In its first year, Greentech invested $200,000 in the Solar Summit and generated $1.3 million in total revenue. Today, its five conferences average $250,000 to $350,000 in sponsorships and $500,000 in total revenue with good gross margins.

 “A lot of new customers use events to kick the tires and try us out and it can become a good annual bundle,” said Clavenna. “When Greentech is successful, this is how it comes together.”

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.