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Events Make the Big Pivot
Arundhati Roy, an acclaimed novelist, said in the 
Financial Times that throughout history pandemics forced humans to break with the past and imagine their worlds anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

Portals into the new unknown range from the grave to the mundane. From a communications perspective, this includes new interfaces (
Zoom apps), creative venues (Hype Houses), and digital spaces for connection (Discord).

As these technologies suggest, we need to watch the live event space closely. To survive the pandemic, sports leagues, media companies, and events businesses have reconfigured their models as well as simultaneously and continually pivot in real-time. 

Last month my colleague Adam wrote about the restart of the NBA. Having been a virtual fan courtside, he found the experience smooth for a pioneering concept but limiting from a real-time perspective. Beyond the curtain, the league continues to experiment with ideas that enhance a hybrid experience for fans, game venue for players, and perhaps most important for the league, new monetization models. The latter is especially critical if the NBA starts next season without fans in the stands.

This trend is not unique to sports. TED recently pivoted from a 3-day in-person event to a multi-week subscription model. Social Media Week similarly shifted to a live and on-demand streaming service for marketers. As part, we will premiere our four-episode Media Genius show next week. 

Organizations aren’t just salvaging events, but tapping into far larger markets. The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity morphed its
conference into a free digital learning experience, registering 70,000 subscribers from 145 countries. By moving online, LinkedIn's TransformHER expanded from 400 attendees to 62,000 views.

Non-event companies that rely heavily on conferences for product introductions, media interviews, and partner development have also radically shifted orientation, with companies like IBM offering virtual sessions and adjusting offerings to align with new realitiesSkillsoft took its 24-hour partner/customer event virtual, incorporating all the elements of an in-person conference, from keynotes to trivia competitions. All-in, attendees consumed 1.4 million moments of content.

While not historically viewed in an event context, higher ed is in the same boat. To survive blowback on exorbitant pricing for online classes, colleges must rethink educational lectures into full-blown media experiences. Pioneers like Harvard Computer Science professor David Malan have built virtual learning empires, incorporating high production value, theater-like entertainment, and human-focused connectivity to educate students expecting to get their money's worth.   

Virtual events and experiences will only continue to escalate in importance, with established events players, digital content producers, tech companies and newcomers alike continuing to pivot in response to this new, demanding environment. 

Chris Perry

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What We're Reading
Zoom Fatigue and the New Ways to Party
By Anna Russell, The New Yorker

Video platforms like Zoom have allowed professional and social lives to carry on with varying levels of success. But one major complaint? Video calls require your face to always be on, contributing to non-verbal burnout. Enter newcomers seeking to solve this problem: virtual coffee shops, body-responsive avatars, audio-centered platforms that allow for movement and smaller-group conversation, and beyond. Which ones are likely to outlive lockdown, and how should brands activate in them?

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Gen Zers Say Silicon Valley is Elitist and Exclusive. Can They Build a New System?
By Taylor Lorenz, The New York Times

For young people, breaking into the cutthroat tech industry — or any industry, really — has become far more difficult during the pandemic. In-person networking events and club meetings are on hold, there aren’t many online hubs for informal connection, and the investors and founders whose buy-in can make or break a product are harder to reach. In response, Gen Zers are starting online communities to connect, collaborate, and build businesses with each other.

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Inside Twitch’s Play for Fashion
By Lucy Maguire, Vogue Business

The worlds of fashion and gaming are colliding on Twitch as the platform’s 1.4 million concurrent users intrigue luxury brands. Amazon-owned Twitch allows ad-avoiding Gen Z to simultaneously watch live content from a brand like Burberry and discuss it in real-time – opening up a whole host of opportunities.

New Influence
What's the Difference Between a Celebrity and Its Avatar?

By Alyssa Bereznak, The Ringer

Celebrities work overtime to keep their fans engaged and their personal brands relevant. Digital avatars are helping them extend their online reach beyond the physical—and redefining fame as we know it.

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Inside the Gaming Collective That’s Drawing Big-Time Music Investors — and Star Players
By Dan Rys, Billboard
Esports company FaZe Clan is emerging as a cultural behemoth as gamers move from the basement into the entertainment business. This is the latest fusion of gaming, immersive events, and influencers — a growing territory we all need to better understand. 
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The World’s First Entirely Virtual Art Museum is Open for Visitors

By Jennifer Nalewicki, Smithsonian Magazine
More than just an online gallery, Virtual Online Museum of Art (VOMA) is 100 percent virtual, from the paintings and drawings on its walls to the museum’s computer-generated building, giving viewers an entirely new way to experience art. Beyond this social distancing solve, the potential for democratizing access to cultural institutions going forward is massive.
Modern Content Canvas
Spotify Will Now List Virtual Events on Artist Pages
By Nick Summers, engadget
Real-world concerts in the face of the pandemic remain few and far between. Spotify has taken notice, updating the mostly-empty ‘On Tour’ area on artist pages. Starting last week, any kind of virtual event can now show up there, too. 
Emerging Technology
Virtual Events Platform Airmeet Raises $12M
By Manish Singh, TechCrunch
Airmeet brings IRL event features online with backstages, table assignments, networking and sponsorship-liaison functionality. Co-founder Lalit Mangal said platform usage has grown 2,000% over the last quarter without advertising, demonstrating real interest in this make-it-feel-more-real tech.
Deep Take
The Anatomy of a Video Experience
By MAGNA, IPG Media Lab, Identity, and VEVO
This collaborative research explores how multicultural audiences consume content across multiple devices; motivations fueling their viewing habits; and the influence of culturally-relevant content on video engagement and ad receptivity. Don’t miss the spotlight on co-viewing insights and a deep-dive into music video consumption.
Copyright © 2020 Weber Shandwick

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