The fall publishing season always falls into pre-Frankfurt or post-Frankfurt on many calendars in terms of availability for people in the publishing business. I am happily in the post Frankfurt mode, getting home this past Saturday in time to take in NY ComicCon with the family (not sure which of the two was more arduous...it might be a tie). Still, following Frankfurt, which I had 25+ planned meetings and innumerable chance meetings and my team had more than 120 scheduled meetings, BEA now has a ton of great things to follow up on that are going to be part of BEA's success in 2014. By any measure - it was a fantastic show.
My point here today is reacting to the headlines in the trades today:
PW: Frankfurt Book Fair 2013: A Busy Fair Despite Lower Attendance
Publishers Lunch: Attendance Slides At the Still-Giant Frankfurt Book Fair
I have complained here before about the headline hysteria that goes with BEA's attendance going up or down. I understand that is the metric in which people judge a book fair (or almost any trade event) and that it is not an unfair measure.
HOWEVER, the content of the meetings and quality people along with the business results are all that matter. Conversely the glowing headlines that come with SXSW - where attendance is through the roof, I found I struggled to get into sessions I planned for because of there were too many people and missed people who could not get around because of the crowding. That could be simply fixing logistics, but the fact is it impacted the value I got for participating in SXSW, diminishing it greatly. Even so, there was a greater diversity of people at SXSW and it took a lot of time for me to figure out that many of them were people that had no value for me (nor was BEA of any value to them). The point is - if a little is good, is a lot always better? I am not disparaging SXSW, but it is not worth it for BEA and we are not going to go back at this point, just no ROI. If I was in marketing or tech, I would feel differently, but just because they had great growth does not mean it is a great event for everyone.
The BEA team had a terrific fair in Frankfurt, we saw the people we needed to see, we had great meetings, we generated a ton of interest from new people that have not attended or exhibited at BEA. It was reported that Frankfurt is down by nearly 10,000 trade people since 2009. To provide some context - BEA's press number was down by more than 300 people this past year. For BEA it was a concerted effort to improve the quality of the press attending and the feedback BEA received was that this made BEA more effective with the quality of the press noticeably improved. People should consider that the erosion of 10,000 trade people from Frankfurt are people they probably never met nor did they ever need to meet with and that was 10,000 less people in their way of getting to a meeting in Hall 6 or standing in line for a bratwurst. Sometimes, less is more. Despite the headlines, the BEA team will be following up for the next 2-3 months with meetings from a very productive fair and will no doubt be in Frankfurt again 2014.