How public events are influencing media and telecommunications business models

In a World Cup and Winter Olympics year it would be remiss of me not to blog about how public events, large and small, are influencing the strategies of companies in the telecommunications and media industries.

As I write this post, the VIVID festival lights up Sydney, contributing significantly to the Opera House’s 28% growth (CAGR) in digital visitation since the festival’s inception in 2009. The other major event in Sydney this week is the YouTube Fan Fest at Luna Park which brings local and global YouTube talent to the stage for fans to see and interact with their YouTube stars, live rather than over their screen. Whilst this is the first year that the YouTube Fan Fest has made it to our shores, it is likely to become a regular feature along with other ‘out of platform’ events from other media companies. Take Pandora radio as an example – they serve up passive listening through their ‘music genome’ based service on card radios through a My Link app in new model Holden and Ford cars. Public events are an extension of their business model. Pandora can host a public ‘off platform’ event that brings together listeners of a similar demographic for a concert by a band for whom they have a curated radio station. This can take place at a Holden dealership and be attend and sponsored by advertisers who can offer and test physical product samples with attendees.

So why will we see more of these events? The secret to the success of ‘off-platform’ experiences in public events is that it provides media companies an opportunity to connect with their ecosystem in a physical context rather than online. It connects digital consumerism and digital social interaction to the physical – and well…there are some experiences that only exist in a physical world (e.g. Drinking Pepsi’s latest drink flavour with the lead singer of your favorite band and your best friends while listening to the band’s new album pumping out of a Holden Commodore).

Public events are also influencing the telecommunications world. Ever been to a large public event and not been able to send a text to a friend because the network is jammed because others are trying to do the same? There is now the ability to ‘go off network’ to send your message through FireChat, an application that allows smartphones to connect to each other directly. As long as two devices (or bunches of devices) can connect to one another by Bluetooth or WiFi radio you’ll be able to chat. The technology is called mesh networking – it enables people to create their own network and become an extension of the internet. What better place to do this than at large public events? The way the use of these networks evolve and mature could potentially challenge telecommunications companies’ strategies to providing service to high density areas (e.g city specific strategies).

The growth in these two trends – ‘off platform event marketing’ and ‘mesh networking’ is driven by social – not just in the digital sense but in the physical sense as well. Public events offer opportunities for media and telecommunications companies to drive new forms of customer engagement and in some cases explore new business models.


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