Zvents Sees 35% Growth; Touts Power of Newspaper Network

Zvents, the events lister, is reporting 35 percent year over year growth with over eight million unique visitors, largely due to its powering events for 285 local media brands, including  major newspapers and the NBC owned-and-operated TV stations.

CEO Ethan Stock cites Quantcast data showing Zvents Media Network as the 250th most used net on the Web, ahead of Citysearch (#267) and Local.com (#291). “We’re a very large local property by any measure,” he says.

The company, which has raised $32 million over its five year history, also claims it has been averaging 12,000 monthly event listers. These use the site to promote a wide range of local events and activities, including live music, performing arts, sporting events and community activities.

Of those listers, roughly 1200, or 10 percent, are now boosting their presence by taking out ads via self–serve – a percentage that Stock thinks will climb to 20 percent in 2010. The company also sells regional and national accounts via telemarketing and national sales, with top categories including major concert promoters, sports teams, casinos and  home and garden events.

High end shopping, with its sales-oriented events, such as Williams Sonoma cooking demonstrations, are also becoming more important to Zvents bottom line.  “There is a significant segment of consumers who perceive shopping as entertainment,” says Stock.

The key to the company’s future in local, however, is to stay away from the trap of focusing on directory-type advertising. Instead, Zvents will stay focused on events and shopping, he says, which have the most highly motivated advertisers. “They are also relatively concentrated in terms of the volume of advertising.”

Indeed, the company’s focus on events and advertising puts it most in competition with social sites such as Facebook and Google, rather than local sites such as Citysearch and Yelp, who may be more directory oriented, says Stock. Other events oriented companies include Eventful, and “new city guide” players such as Center’d and American Towns.

In hindsight, the company’s initial focus on teaming with newspapers “look like a very smart choice,” adds Stock. While newspapers are commonly disparaged in today’s climate for their declining circulation and advertising, “they have high repeat traffic. Much more than national partners.” Top Zvents newspaper partners include SFGate, the Denver Post, Seattle PI, Boston.com, the Dallas Morning News, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, New York Daily News, and the Orange County Register.

Stock also sees a major boost coming from renewed efforts in local from national partners such as AT&T’s Yellowpages.com, which has been an investor in the company ; and from MSN, where Zvents listings will be showing up in Bing, and trigger Instant Answers via Silverlight search.

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