How Girlboss plans to use events to sell digital subscriptions

Girlboss’s digital events audience may soon outgrow its physical events audience. In late November, the women’s business and lifestyle publisher will host its fourth paid event, the two-day Girlboss Rally, held in Queens.

Girlboss is expecting about 2,000 attendees, about 800 of whom will be paying at least $295 per ticket to see panel discussions and presentations featuring the likes of Ellevest founder Sallie Krawcheck, Equinox founder Lavinia Errico and fashion designer and executive Norma Kamali.

Events were supposed to be core to Girlboss when founder Sophia Amoruso relaunched it in the summer of 2017. But events are hard to scale, so to get more value out of the videos it produces for digital ticketholders, Girlboss will add video from its sessions to a new membership product: Later this year, the publisher will launch Girlboss Collective, a paid monthly product that gives members access to a private network, plus an archive of content built out of four events’ worth of videos.

“It’s a nice addition to our current mix,” Girlboss editor in chief and COO Neha Gandhi said of Collective. “We can bring in advice from experts, thought leaders, women we admire. But what we can’t do is opine on, ‘I have these three logos, which one’s better?’ or ‘I’m looking for a great IP attorney.’ Those questions become too granular and specific for us to take on. That’s where we want to bring the right women together.”

At the November Rally, Girlboss’s first two-day event, attendees will be able to get professional headshots, visit a job fair and network with one another in addition to the panel discussions. The venue also includes a vendor bazaar filled with Girlboss-endorsed brands and Amoruso-approved books, such as John Mackey and Raj Sisodia’s “Conscious Capitalism.” People who are interested in retail therapy rather than advice can buy shopping-only tickets for $30.

Growing the audience digitally allows Girlboss to sell bigger programs to advertisers, who drive the majority of Rally revenue. But it also adds significant production cost: A team of more than 30 people, some contractors and some full-time employees, are involved producing, editing and packaging the multi-camera segments. “It’s definitely more than a tripod in the back of the room,” Gandhi said.

With digital advertising giving even the biggest publishers fits, many publishers have turned to events to diversify their revenues, even though they can be risky and resource-intensive; the price tag for talent alone on an event can run into the seven figures, according to one source familiar with the matter.

Yet they have proven especially attractive to women’s lifestyle publishers, with players including Refinery29, Popsugar and Domino all building up their experiential operations, with many of them figuring out how to wring more branded content opportunities out of the events themselves.

In Girlboss’s case, its production team works with advertisers to transform its on-site activations into video clips, which it can cut down into branded content that it distributes across multiple channels, including Instagram, where Girlboss has over 800,000 followers.

“We want to bring partners into something that’s more expansive,” Gandhi said.

Update: An earlier version of this story misstated that digital tickets were available to November’s rally.

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