Business

New York Comic Con Organizer ReedPop Is Perfecting the Business of Pop Culture

The annual pop culture bonanza that is New York Comic Con comes to a close this weekend, but the company that organizes the event says it’s just the beginning for a much wider business.

ReedPop, the Connecticut-based company behind the popular geek fest, has continued to expand since New York Comic Con surpassed San Diego as the largest comic book convention in North America in 2014. New York’s four-day event this year sold more than 200,000 tickets thanks to the recent additions of new venues beyond Manhattan’s Javits Center—Madison Square Garden and Hammerstein Ballroom, to name a couple. The event attracted around 33,000 attendees in its opening year, 2006, cracked 100,000 for the first time in 2011, and was hovering around 150,000 five years ago.

ReedPop also operates around 45 entertainment conferences throughout the world, including comic cons in Johannesburg, Jakarta, and Paris—as well as Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con, which drew nearly 100,000 visitors earlier this year. It now claims to be largest producer of pop culture events in the world. But beyond live events, the company is expanding its digital footprint with nearly 60 million people in 2019 reading or watching content on a series of its game-oriented websites, global head of ReedPop Lance Fensterman told Fortune. Notable is Eurogamer.net, owned by British media company Gamer Network, which was acquired by ReedPop last year. The popular website first launched in 1999 now attracts 7 million monthly unique users across the site and social media, says ReedPop.

Fensterman says the acquisition of sites like Eurogamer has been key to ReedPop’s growth in recent years. Over the past six years, the company has tripled its revenue—now an estimated $15 million annually, according to Crunchbase—and further expanded into international markets.

“[We’re] looking for something that’s complimentary to what [we] do that is growing and is healthy, a brand that is strong and that is respected by fans and the industry,” Fensterman said in an interview. “We would never consider buying something just for quote on quote market share. We’re much more interested in acquiring a company that has talented, passionate people that are ultimately going to make ReedPop better.”

Fensterman said that since ReedPop’s founding in 2006, the company “essentially built an industry” because there wasn’t a “big professional company running pop culture shows.” But by delving into this new kind of business, Fensterman says, ReedPop has “made everything up as we’ve gone along, and we’ve learned some lessons the hard way.”

He points to Emerald City Comic Con as an example. “We had a hypothesis about how we would run that business and integrate it, and we brought into the machine of ReedPop—’This is how we do things’—as opposed to thinking about it as its own entity, community, and brand,” Fensterman said. “We took a bit of a heavy-handed approach and the customers told us, they didn’t like the way we approached it, so we regrouped and got back to what made us successful, which is thinking about the fans and giving them what they want.”

So while ReedPop has targeted digital content as part of its growth, at the end of the day, the company remains focused on events, Kristina Rogers, event director of New York Comic Con told Fortune.

“Our role in popular culture is to make a space for fans to have fun,” she said. “We create the ultimate weekend getaway, no matter what you’re into: if you’re a fan of comics, a fan of celebrities, a fan of authors and literary genres. That’s the space we focus on.”

She adds that preparation for next year’s New York Comic Con has already begun despite the show just wrapping on Sunday. “Now’s a good time to think strategically about what we’re going to look like over the next three years,” Rogers said. “While everything’s still fresh.”

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