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Exhibitions: Publisher's Partner or Step-Sister(s). Peter Sutton President & Chief Executive CMP Asia Ltd Hong Kong, China. The Cinderella Questions? One Answer:. The Cinderella Questions? Another Answer:. B2B exhibition organisers and publishers:.

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Exhibitions: Publisher's Partner or Step-Sister(s)

Peter Sutton

President & Chief Executive

CMP Asia Ltd

Hong Kong, China

B2B exhibition organisers and publishers:
  • How do their different products work together today?
  • How does the business relationship work?
  • How will the products and the relationship change?

There are exceptions to every general comment made here, and there are few directly measurable statistics of this ancient relationship.

These comments mostly concern the relationship between independent publications and independent exhibitions. Bigger media companies and trade associations which own both publications and exhibitions covering the same industry generally follow the same trend.

The traditional basic relationship between independent media: A primitive barter.
  • Free advance advertising of the exhibition in exchange for a free stand at the exhibition: The old barter that remains by far the most common interaction between.
  • Editors attend the exhibition, sometimes invited free. The organiser provides extra services, such as press centre.
  • Free distribution of the publication off the free stand at the exhibition gives the publisher the opportunity to sell advertising, using the exhibition.

Everybody wins. Everybody is happy.

The traditional basic relationship between independent media: A primitive barter.

But, as ever, there are problems old and new:

  • Old problem: The competition between the advertising for the publication and advertising for the exhibition's own publications.
  • Old problem: Editors talk to exhibitors and visitors and summarise views. Editors also give opinions of the event's value.
  • Newish problem: These days, accountants demand a value on these barter agreements. This can lead to discussion and dispute about the equivalent value of an advert and of a stand.
The traditional basic relationship between independent media: A primitive barter.
  • Newish problem: The launch of more new exhibitions, particularly in Asia, has led some B2B publications to refuse barter arrangements until the exhibition is established.
  • Newish problem: The trends of technology in the promotion of exhibitions is reducing their dependence on publications. More later.

Conclusion: These barter relationships will continue as of old, with the same occasional disagreements, though a fundamental change may be underway.

The next step up in cooperation between independent organisers and publishers:

Conferences and seminars

  • The exhibition wants to enhance the value of the exhibition by adding more conferences, more seminars.
  • The publication is generally considered to be more informed about industry trends and to have good high-level contacts.
  • A joint venture is formed for a conference: the publication provides the speakers and the content, either for a share of the profit or, more commonly, a share of the revenue, and no risk.
  • These joint ventures are a characteristic of the type of exhibition and the location.
Type of exhibition:

Show-and-tell exhibitions need conferences - and so need publications.

Bazaar exhibitions rely much less on conferences - and so less on publications.

Two basic types of exhibitions:


  • Annual or lower frequency
  • Demonstration of products
  • Launch of new product
  • General promotion
  • Often few orders concluded
  • High-value products
  • Fewer buyers and sellers


  • Frequent, fashion driven
  • New products essential
  • Low or mid value consumer goods
  • Many small buyers and sellers
  • Many on-site orders placed
  • Sometimes, on-site cash sales

For example:

- Industrial - Shipping

- Telecom - Machinery

- IT - Medical

- Energy

For example:

- Gifts - Jewellery and watches

- Housewares - Furniture and furnishings

- Toys and - Fashion, apparel, shoes

electronic - Cosmetics and natural

goods health

Locations make different demands:

Many North American trade professionals, and to lesser extent Europeans, say they now must have several strong reasons to take the time away from work to attend an exhibition.

Generally today, elsewhere, good large exhibitions are strong enough on their own to attract high quality professional buyers.

The JV organisation of co-located conferences can be challenging due to the different objectives of the two parties.

General conclusion: These types of JV conferences are frequently started but rarely sustained.

The next step up in cooperation between independent organisers and publishers:

Joint venture exhibitions or publications

where the publisher is either the creator and owner of the exhibition or a substantial joint-venture partner.

- or the other way round.

How common are these?

ABC Kids Expo • AIA Natl. Convention and Design Exposition • All Things Organic •

American Dental Assn. Annual Session • ASD/AMD Trade Show – Las Vegas (Spring) •

ASD/AMD Trade Show – Las Vegas (Summer) • ASIS Intl. Annual Seminar and Exhibits •

Assn. of the United States Army Annual Meeting • Coffee Fest Las Vegas •

Dealernews Intl. Powersports Dealer Expo • Electronic House Expo (EHX) Fall •

Electronic House Expo (EHX) Spring • Fall VON Conference & Expo •

Family Medicine Forum • FENCETECH • Firehouse Expo

Firehouse World Exposition & Conference • Florida Intl. Medical Expo •

Global Gaming Expo (G2E) • Government Security Expo & Conference •

The Great American Trucking Show • The Great Bridal Expo •

HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition • Intl. Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) •

Intl. Conference and Exhibition on Health Facility Planning, Design and Construction •

Intl. Jewelry General Merchandise Fair – Fall • Intl. Pool & Spa Expo • Intl. Security Conference West •

JLC LIVE Residential Construction Show – New England • •

Kitchen/Bath Industry Show & Conference • Lubrication Excellence Conference & Exhibition • Medical Design & Manufacturing® Minneapolis • MemoryTrends Trade Show •

Mid-America Horticultural Trade Show • NBAA Annual Meeting & Convention •

Oil Sands Trade Show and Conference • PACK EXPO Las Vegas •

Pennsylvania RV & Camping Show • Premiere Beauty Show Orlando • Pri-Med Mid-Atlantic •

SEMA Show • Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting • Springtime™ •

Surf Expo – January • System Builder Summit & VARVision •

TEAMS Conference & Expo •

United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology Annual Meeting •

VoiceCon • World of Asphalt® Show & Conference

The Fastest 50:

Trade Show Week's listing of the fastest growing exhibitions in North America

For the 2005 list, a knowledgeable analysis shows that:

  • 15 out of 50 have a substantial publisher involvement in the exhibition.
  • There are well-known examples in the fastest 50, and historically, of publishers launching conferences and so leading to successful exhibitions.
  • Are there any examples of exhibition organisers launching a successful publication out of an exhibition?
An example of a publisher establishing a big successful exhibition – with some help

One of the leading publishers serving the maritime industry, based in UK

A conference on cruise trade launched in New York in 1984

Now an annual 12,000-sqm exhibition and 1,300-delegate convention in Miami

Other observations:
  • Major B2B media companies, which have exhibition and publication divisions, allow them to operate independently of each other.
  • Exhibition organisers fear that working with one publication may deter other competitive publications from promoting and reporting on the exhibition.
  • As with JV co-located conferences, the sustainability of such JVs is at risk due to differing objectives.

General conclusion:

  • Successful joint-venture ownership of exhibitions by publishers and organisers is not common.
  • There are some good examples of publishers that launched conferences that led to successful exhibitions.
Some examples of cooperation:

Biggest fair and publication are organised by one management team

Tokyo Health Industry Show

Health Industry News

Some examples of cooperation:

Asia’s biggest jewellery fair and publication give mutual sales and promotion exclusivity

Market focus:

The jewellery fair and the jewellery magazine, both serving the Asian trade

How the cooperation works:Mutual maximum promotion.

  • Not only frequent free advertising of the fair in the magazine, but also direct mail (on line and print) promotion to advertisers and readers.
  • Exclusive distribution points of the magazine inside every hall of the fair, while others are gathered in publications' pavilion.
  • The magazine's editors, well informed of market trends, advise the fair organiser on how to develop new sales, new pavilions.
Market focus:

The jewellery fair and the jewellery magazine, both serving the Asian trade

How the cooperation works:Use market knowledge.

  • The editors also help evaluate the quality of an exhibitor's jewellery so ensuring the most suitable booth location.
  • The exhibition sales contract includes the opportunity to buy advertising in the preview and show editions of the magazine.
  • The editorial coverage is not censored but of course there is frequent and detailed reporting in the magazine of the fair's results.
  • The publications' full range of print products is given exclusive access to the exhibitors (2,000) and visitors (40,000).
Market focus:

The jewellery fair and the jewellery magazine, both serving the Asian trade

The result:

  • Definitely more advertising in the magazine, and it helps to keep its leading market position.
  • The fair is fully sold out and is helped by the market knowledge of the editors and by the good reputation of the magazine.
  • New media products, magazines, on-line products and new fairs are generated through the cooperation.
Market focus:

The jewellery fair and the jewellery magazine, both serving the Asian trade

But also how the cooperation does not work:

  • The salesforces of magazine and fair remain separate. As does day-to-day management.
  • Sometimes customers try to play off the magazine and the fair.
  • There is internal competition between the fair's directory and on-site advertising and the magazine's advertising.
  • A senior manager is needed to coordinate and control the two product groups.
Overall conclusion today: Old differences still deter lasting amicable cooperation.

"Different business bio-rhythms"

Exhibitions: Still mainly a sales machine for exhibitors. And organisers are driven by selling the exhibition, to exhibitors, to visitors. as a sales marketplace. Big sales and marketing build-up to opening day. A product that only lasts a few days.

Publications: Sales but also information - and often opinion. For the higher-quality B2B publications, independent editors seeking to provide real market and business information which may be negative, depressing sales. Magazines are published regularly, so a slower sales tempo.

Will this relationship change?

In most cases, it is already changing due, of course, to the promotional opportunity of the internet.

professional use of the web as a primary information source is expected to accelerate
Professional use of the web as a primary information source is expected to accelerate


Hours / week with medium

Extremely / very important information source









Internet is “First stop for information”

Expect to increase usage in 5 years





Users 45-54

Users 18-24



Source: ABM / Readex telephone study of 100 B2B professionals 30-40 years old; Outsell

internet advertising has the fastest growing share of b2b customer spend
Internet advertising has the fastest growing share of B2B customer spend





Industry Data*





Internet advertising**


Trade shows




Print marketing



Source: Price WaterhouseCoopers / Internet Advertising Bureau: Internet Advertising Report 1998 - 2004 Q2;

VSS Communications Industry Forecast & Report 2004-2007, 2004-2008; PQ Media

*Industry Data is defined as directory, reference, data, and other B2B and professional information

Traditional print must launch on-line editions

Starting from America and spreading fast, traditional print publications are busy establishing viable on-line equivalents to protect and sustain advertising revenues.

Like other advertisers, exhibition organisers are making much more use of their own direct on-line mail promotion to exhibitors and especially visitors.

Already, many exhibition organisers are sending email newsletters which contain market information as well as promotion to interest the reader more.

Exhibition organisers will use more on-line promotion

On-line pre-registration of events is climbing rapidly. For CMP Asia, we now have over 23,000 visitors pre-registering on-line in 2005 for our major exhibitions in Hong Kong. This is still a small proportion of total registration of 130,000, but it is growing fast, at over 15%/year and often includes many of the most professional trade buyers.

Organisers are building much more active and sophisticated websites, maintaining full-time on-line product.

And if they are not, they should be.

And turning to the existing on-line media as major opportunities for direct promotion to a usually larger audience.

General conclusion: Many exhibition organisers may no longer need publications as major promotional vehicles because they will be publishing their own on-line equivalent, both to promote the exhibition but also as a new revenue-generating media product.

– or working with on-line media directly.