Bologna Cheers an ‘Unexpected’ Level of Attendance

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Bologna Children’s Book Festival draws 75 percent of its 2019 crowd size, a strong in-person turnout – 40 percent international.

At Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2022. Image: BCBF

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Attendance Reaches 75 Percent of 2019’s Total
As Bologna Children’s Book Fair has come to its planned conclusion today (March 24), the information that several hundred news people have been waiting to report has arrived: In terms of attendance, the head count of attendees was just 25-percent lower than in 2019, the most recent in-person edition.

“This was an unexpectedly positive result for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair,” says BolognaFiere in its media messaging this afternoon, “given the difficult international situation.”

It translates to an attendance figure of 21,432 visitors, with more than 40 percent of the industry professionals there coming from abroad.

Anyone who has just been with us this week at Bologna will be saying “I told you so” about now.

The sprawling complex of exhibition halls in the cooperative weather of the Emilia-Romagna felt bustling with trade visitors who were exuberant to be at this 59th edition of the big fair in person.

BolognaFiere is taking care today to thank the Italian ministry of foreign affairs and international development as well as the Italian Trade Agency for adamant support of the effort. We also saw firm support and engagement from the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) and its president, Ricardo Franco Levi, Rome’s newly designated “extraordinary minister” now on the road to the Guest of Honor Italy program at Frankfurter Buchmesse in 2024.

Its return to a physical staging, our regular readers know, Bologna Children’s Book Fair was green-lighted by the authorities only on January 15, which in trade-show producing terms is something like being shot out of a cannon. Nevertheless, here were 1,070 exhibitors from 90 countries, “including Guest of Honor Sharjah, and a program of 18 exhibitions and more than 250 live events,” as the organizers now are putting it.

At Publishing Perspectives, we’d also like to see a count of just how many awards programs went through the mix this week, clearly making a hefty addition to the book industry’s deep saturation in those well-intended recognition programs.

Ukraine: A Unifying Crisis

At Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2022. Image: BCBF

The leadership working with show director Elena Pasoli and Bologna Book Plus program chief Jacks Thomas—who saw her expanded portfolio of events on their feet for the first time in a physical setting—is also pointing out that the nightmare of Vladimir Putin’s assault on the sovereign state of Ukraine helped create a fervent sense of solidarity and camaraderie throughout the week.

This was palpable, with trade visitors showing the now famous yellow-and-blue of Ukrainians’ pride and generating new efforts to help. See, for example, our story on the new effort to print Ukrainian children’s books, a joint venture of the Ukrainian Book Institute (UBI) and the Federation of European Publishers (FEP).

While most of us on the ground in Bologna were focused on the physical event, of course, the show’s digital evocation was quietly churning along in the ether and gaining traction, as well. In 2020, Bologna became the first of the major shows to “go digital” with a genuinely extensive effort at self-recreation in a digital format.

On its digital platform, Bologna this year saw more than 2 million views, double the number achieved at the last in-person edition in 2019.

There were 200,000 unique users (61 percent of them outside Italy) and more than 51,000 users registered for the online services. That’s a jump of 10-percent in unique users connected during the four days of the event, March 21 to today, compared with 2021, and double the number of unique users and visits compared with the last in-person edition in 2019.

More than 40 video productions, including integral recordings and direct streams, were created for online remote use. And at least 2,500 unique users followed those direct streams. As trade show people will tell you, the workload for a staff doing a digital edition of its event is anything but “virtual.”

In social media:

  • The Facebook community for Bologna came to 65,300
  • There were more than 73,000 followers on Instagram
  • Some 15,000 were busy communicating about the show on Twitter
  • More than 7,000 were engaged on LinkedIn

You may or may not have been aware of a program called “Open Up,” described as a “Bologna Skill Box.” (Like most of our world industry trade shows, Bologna does love its branding.) That effort in instruction and career training drew more than 1,100 professionals who are reported to have taken part in master classes, online conferences, training courses and special initiatives organized online in the last three months.

And those 300 or so of us there from various parts of the news media (still a plural word, one medium, two media, especially in the homeland of Latin), were partly national and partly international press operatives, of course, covering the fair contents in newspapers, magazines, digital media, television, and radio.

At Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2022. Image: BCBF

More on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here, more on industry statistics is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here. More on the Federation of European Publishers is here.

Follow our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing players and international industry reactions. More on the Ukrainian Book Institute is here

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.