Why virtual media events are here to stay
Future News 66
Talk of a big Spring return to normality is an exaggeration. Most people want to continue to work-from-home (see these YouGov and Institute of Directors surveys) and some companies, most notably the large technology businesses, have told staffers that they can continue to stay crouched over their laptops in the (dis)comfort of their living rooms throughout 2021.
The other overlooked element of our new work-from-home culture is that it could easily become another must have perk for recruiters to lure potential employees in with. If your firm doesn’t offer it, perhaps a competitor will? For other businesses, meanwhile, it’s a benefit because they don’t see cash being burnt on rental fees.
These factors and considerations are creating a true paradigm shift in our work and home lives, which historians will later frame in a post-Covid-19 perspective (the same way ‘post-9/11’ and ‘after the 2008 financial crisis’ have entered the lexicon). A vaccine will not be able to change this.
Arguably a sector that was long-overdue for disruption, the events industry has had to quickly adapt. A big winner of this great shift has been Hopin, the London-based virtual events business that raised a Series B financing round of $125m led by IVP and Tiger Global Management this week, giving the online events start-up a valuation of more than $2bn (welcome to the ‘Unicorn’ club).
By way of comparison, the £8bn market cap’ events giant Informa has enacted a Covid-19 action plan, which most recently included the issuance of a £150m follow-on bond after cancelling a £750m credit facility and £1.1bn in loan notes. Things are looking up, however, with Group CEO Stephen Carter noting the “progressive” re-opening of physical events in Mainland China and other parts of Asia, with growth in the company’s own virtual events and media brands. He’s expected much desired positive free cash flows from “early 2021”.
Others in the industry (on a much smaller scale to Informa and based solely in Europe) have effectively ruled out 2021 altogether, FN has been told, given the prevailing uncertainty around restrictions. And when in-person events do return there are still strategic questions around whether to continue to de-couple certain speeches from a programme, whether some sessions should be run online and how, from an editorial perspective, the events content may match-up with its sister publication (especially in the B2B space).
💼 Jobs and business
This virus is here to stay, so FN wasn’t surprised to hear that some news media outlets have started to roll-out regular Covid-19 testing. The Daily Mail, which has previously pressured the UK government for a return to office working, has begun to test its staff, sources have revealed. The outlet did not return a request for comment. The BBC, meanwhile, isn’t currently planning “mass testing”, a source told FN. A spokesperson for the BBC said: “The vast majority of BBC staff continue to work as they have over recent months, either working remotely for those who are able to or in an office location if this has been agreed or they are in service critical roles. For those in a BBC building, we’ve been following Covid-secure workplace guidelines. We’re adhering to the two metres social distancing rule, but in situations where this is difficult, for example in our galleries and studios, we are following Government advice and operating at one metre plus with additional special measures such as the use of Perspex screens and other personal protection equipment.” Elsewhere, journalists at The Times and Sunday Times newspapers have been told to work-from-home for “at least part of the week permanently”, according to The Telegraph.
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