For a while, selling subscriptions seemed like enough. It’s a good product, your content is unique, and the price point reasonable. And then the Internet exploded, free content abounded, and subscriptions got tougher to sell. And publishers added stuff.
For the Washington Nationals baseball team—the top seed in the upcoming National League playoffs and coming off the first no-hitter in franchise history yesterday—they reached this point last year. For them, the “Internet” equates to the explosion of so many things to do in the Washington, D.C. area. The “free content” that now abounds is all the games that are televised—theirs and others. And because of this—and cost—their season ticket subscriptions went down last year.
So what did they do? What would any good “publisher” do? Marketed. Here are ideas as chronicled by Thomas Heath’s Value Added column in today’s Washington Post.
- The Nationals created a membership club called Nats Plus. “People were saying, ‘Why do I need a plan? There’s StubHub,’” said Valerie Camillo, the team’s chief marketing and revenue officer. Now fans can get on-field photos, autographs, batting practice passes, tickets to exhibition games. Would publisher equivalents be special access to writers and bloggers, and “gold” passes to one or more of your events?
- “[Camillo] knew the key was getting fans face-to-face with Nationals salesmen,” writes Heath. So the team invited fans to certain games this year to upsell them on season ticket plans, using conference rooms in the stadium. For the Nationals, a ticket to a game does not cost much, and the potential upsell can be great. Given the cost of most publishers’ live events, it’s hard to give that away for a possible upsell. But still, the value of that “face-to-face” should not be underestimated. Maybe there are lower-cost, in-person events that you can put on to get new people out.
- The Nationals didn’t offer the shorter ticket plans (5, 10 and 20 games) until later in the year so fans would not be tempted to buy those instead of a full or half season.
- Camillo “boosted bonuses for her sales staff if they sold Nats Plus plans.”
- The sales staff was taught better public speaking and given the option to call on the general manager (their publisher?) to close the deal. The sales staff connected the dollars fans spent to the ability to get better players. Publishing equivalent might be to find a very specific interest of a potential subscriber and say that their subscription/membership would enable further work into that microsite.
- Season ticket holders now have cards that they use to get into the stadium, buy food, buy a cap, etc. (And special lines to get in, and then buy food.) Those cards allow the team to amass loads of data on them and then market to similar people. “We have data that shows new buyers for 2015 are getting younger, more diverse and more family-oriented,” Camillo said. The publisher equivalent might be awards programs—those can draw lots of data—surveys, and other “benefits”-for-info programs.
- There are also special areas at the stadium where certain season ticket holders can go that regular ticket holders can’t. You feel like you’re missing out. Similarly, you might try levels on your website or with your benefits that can only be accessed by your biggest supporters. SIPA member Pro Farmer offers a Classic Membership, a Preferred Membership and a VIP Membership. VIP members get the “most comprehensive news, analysis and advice package available.”
- Looking at the comments, one season ticket holder points to how nice all the staff is at the game. That never hurts. And another writes that he is happy that giveaways are at all gates now. So those things do seem to matter.
To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.
Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.