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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:29 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1821
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/bs-fe-museum-attendance-solutions-20180111-story.html

Quote:
Studies conducted over the past two decades have found little correlation between attendance and admission rates.

“Lowering the price of admission or eliminating it doesn’t mean that suddenly, more people will want to come to your museum,” said Zannie Voss, director of the National Center for Arts Research in Texas. “If your museum goes free so that people of a lower economic status can participate, you still have to get them through the door the first time. And you have to give them such an engaging experience they’ll want to come back.”

If museums’ only goal were to wow ever-larger crowds, every administrator in America would know exactly how to achieve it. But the one seemingly sure-fire solution might cause more problems than it solves.

Behold the blockbuster.


Is Thomas the Tank Engine our "blockbuster"? Or big expo events?


While everybody understands that the amount of goods and services demanded by consumers varies with the price charged for them, in order to understand what I think is an error in the analysis that underlies the assertion, a little background is helpful:

Warning: Technical information (skip to bottom part if you want the conclusion)


Economists refer to the tendency for the quantity of goods and services demanded by consumers to be affected by the price charged for them as elasticity of demand. Under normal, but not all circumstances, the elasticity is a negative number as an increase in price will result in decreased sales and a decrease in price will increase sales, but is expressed as an absolute value

Elasticity = (% change in quantity / % change in price)

Generally speaking, there are many possibilities

1.) Elasticity is greater than 1: Demand is elastic, and a perfectly elastic product would be infinite.

2.) Elasticity equals 1 : Demand is unit elastic.

3.) Elasticity is less than 1. : Demand is inelastic-if there is absolutely no change in quantity, it is perfectly inelastic.

4.) Elasticity is perverse: a decrease in price results in decreased sales. This odd situation occurs when the price of the item is part of the status of ownership or taken as an indication of quality. Some years ago, Cadillac found out demand for their cars was perversely elastic. Customer surveys revealed that customers believed that a decrease in price was achieved by diminished quality. This is very unusual and these goods are called “Veblen goods”.

If elasticity is greater than one, as it is in the case of non-necessity items where there are acceptable substitutes, a given percentage change in price results in a greater percentage change in quantity demanded, so decreasing the price generally results in greater revenue (and profit). As an aside, as a consumer, this is why we want vigorous competition.

If elasticity equals one, then price changes are produce little or no changes in revenue. For way of example, if somebody sold 100 units @ $100 each, and the seller’s 5% price decrease results in 105 units sold, then total revenue would go from $10,000 to $9975 (be virtually unchanged). Some consumer goods exhibit this behavior, so price decreases would be ineffective at increasing revenue.

If elasticity is less than one, as it is in the case of necessities without close substitutes (Insulin is the classic example-it also is something that will only be demanded as required), price changes will result in changes in demand that are less than the price, so increasing the price will result in greater revenue.

Bottom Part:

Intuition should tell us that museums should have elastic demand, that for a given change in price, you should get a percentage increase in ticket sales that exceeds the percentage change price, resulting in greater revenue, something that is especially important in an environment where the cost structure tends almost completely composed of fixed costs; that is costs that don’t change just because another pair of shoes entered the building.

After all, museum visitation is not a necessity and there are plenty of other things to do with “edutainment” money, so the question is why isn’t visitation responsive to cutting admission.

What’s clearly being missed here is that admissions fees is only a small part of the total cost of visitation. For a family of five, dropping the admission from say 20 dollars to 10 dollars appears to be a 50% decrease, but in reality, that 50 dollar saving has to be considered in light of all costs of visitation-the cost of transportation, food, lodging and the souvenirs you’ll buy to suspend the incessant “oh please” of the kiddies.

In addition, if there are complementary attractions (think the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and the Strasburg Railroad right across the street) your price changes will appear even smaller to a dual customer.

The commentor cited in the article should know this with a doctorate from a business school but may not be considering it because theater tickers are more expensive than museum fees and a much greater proportion of the total cost. Also, they may be something of a necessity, if the theater is a pretext to dinner and uh dessert with your wife/girlfriend/paramour.

Let's keep in mind something here: ideas have consequences-at a time when people are told that the past is filled with moral defectives who deserve our contempt-it's going to be more difficult to get the new iconoclasts to view history as worthy of inquiry.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:32 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:08 am
Posts: 60
superheater wrote:
Bottom Part:

Intuition should tell us that museums should have elastic demand, that for a given change in price, you should get a percentage increase in ticket sales that exceeds the percentage change price, resulting in greater revenue, something that is especially important in an environment where the cost structure tends almost completely composed of fixed costs; that is costs that don’t change just because another pair of shoes entered the building.

After all, museum visitation is not a necessity and there are plenty of other things to do with “edutainment” money, so the question is why isn’t visitation responsive to cutting admission.

What’s clearly being missed here is that admissions fees is only a small part of the total cost of visitation. For a family of five, dropping the admission from say 20 dollars to 10 dollars appears to be a 50% decrease, but in reality, that 50 dollar saving has to be considered in light of all costs of visitation-the cost of transportation, food, lodging and the souvenirs you’ll buy to suspend the incessant “oh please” of the kiddies.


This is where I feel these museums as missing a trick, why not partner up with local accomodation places and offer a discount just to those staying in those places? This would work as a great piece of bait for a family or other visitor who might not have considered visiting the museum, but a 10-15% discount on the entry fee because of the luck of picking that particular hotel? Might encourage them into a place they might not have considered previously.

Quote:
In addition, if there are complementary attractions (think the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and the Strasburg Railroad right across the street) your price changes will appear even smaller to a dual customer.


That is also when you go into a more formal alliance with other local attractions nearby, offering a grouped up ticket will encourage more footfall and that vital ancillary spending.

The best example UK-side I can think of is the Ironbridge Gorge, a UNESCO world heritage site which offers you a year-long ticket for a family (2 adults, plus kids) for about $90. That gives you a year of access to some nine museums of varying sizes spread throughout the gorge with lots of twee shops, tea rooms and pubs to go to both at the various sites and in between. It's also completely impossible to visit all these museums within even a weekend visit (the most I have managed in a day is 3) and it thus encourages you back for another two visits as you've already spent the cash. It also means when you come back, you might not pick where you ate or spent on souvenirs last time.

Quote:
The commentor cited in the article should know this with a doctorate from a business school but may not be considering it because theater tickers are more expensive than museum fees and a much greater proportion of the total cost. Also, they may be something of a necessity, if the theater is a pretext to dinner and uh dessert with your wife/girlfriend/paramour.


I think this might be a key problem with a lot of stateside museums. As I've said elsewhere, the US heritage market feels like it's like the UK's was 20-30 years ago. They're not really thinking like a business and they're too stuck in traditional thinking.

There needs to be a slight cultural shift that they are an industry with a lot of potential power to hand, especially in terms of economic impact. In volunteer organisation cases the business side becomes a 'necessary evil', and a gateway to getting better equipment and ability to interpret other exhibits. But museums and other organizations have to start shaking that feeling off first before adopting those practises.

Quote:
Let's keep in mind something here: ideas have consequences-at a time when people are told that the past is filled with moral defectives who deserve our contempt-it's going to be more difficult to get the new iconoclasts to view history as worthy of inquiry.


I often think these movements and people are grossly overstated and their influence comes from the old adage of "if 10 people complain the real number is 1000" that I was always taught when it came to customer or other complaints.

This 'anti-history' infection in the US tried to come across the pond to here with the "Rhodes Must Fall" campaign at Oxford University, where a Rhodes Scholarship student whipped up a bunch of (mostly white) students into a frenzy about how triggering it was to him (as an African) to walk past a statue of Cecil Rhodes (the Brit that built Africa).

The campaign was initially ignored by the Dean before it became such an annoying din that he responded that if the statue was so hurtful, the leader and all his friends were perfectly welcome to go to any other fine UK university where such hurtful statues were not present.

Oddly enough, when faced with either an inanimate object "hurting their feelings" or the prospect of saying they left oxford university because of said inanimate object to future potential employers, the campaign collapsed.

I can't help but feel similar responses might be necessary to this annoying, tiny vocal din making groups.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:32 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:28 am
Posts: 133
Consider the people your organization puts in front of your guests:

Do they have good hygiene?
Do they socialize well with other humans?
Do they have the ability to communicate professionally with visitors?

Does your train crew share historic, active information with visitors...or do they underwhelm them with techno-babble about railroad equipment?
Do you have volunteers or staff that spend more time enforcing the policies of the organization then engaging customers?
Do you have have volunteers or staff that are just general no-it-alls?

Vetting your volunteers can set your crews and patrons up for success. Allowing a person to behave inappropriately or otherwise make people uncomfortable can be a major distraction from your museum experience.

People matter as much as the train does. Without the right people your train won't roll a single wheel.

My two cents.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:07 pm 

Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:17 am
Posts: 214
Location: New York
Pegasuspinto wrote:
Also, if your excuse for bad attendance and volunteering begins with "Kids these days just don't", you've pretty much lost the fight.


This. Thank you. So true. Stop blaming others, and take a hard look at your organization before you throw you exasperated hands up in the air and blame "those darn millennials and their facebooks."

-otto-

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—Otto Vondrak
Rochester, N.Y.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:12 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2015 10:29 am
Posts: 58
Location: Michigan
Museum attendance happens via three paths to the front door.

1. You are taken to a museum by your parents, friends, or a relative.

2. You visit a museum as a part of a school field trip.

3. You walk into a museum on your own.

If you clump number one with number three, the paths are narrowed to two.

What have I missed?

John


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 12:46 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8952
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
Otto Vondrak wrote:
Pegasuspinto wrote:
Also, if your excuse for bad attendance and volunteering begins with "Kids these days just don't", you've pretty much lost the fight.


This. Thank you. So true. Stop blaming others, and take a hard look at your organization before you throw you exasperated hands up in the air and blame "those darn millennials and their facebooks."


With all due respect, I have to disagree.

Various segments of "entertainment" have been dramatically changed, or even close to killed, by the changes in the marketplace. This is not "blaming the kids," but a tacit acknowledgement that the competition for attention is stiffer than before.

Don't believe me? Where are all those movie theaters of yore? Formerly high-end shopping malls are being bulldozed. Even a business one thought permanently lucrative and secure--pornography--is being killed by the elimination of the middleman as the internet removes barriers to distribution, sales, production, and even marketplace entry.

True, "them kids and their newfangled toys" isn't an excuse to maintain the status quo. But if you don't accurately gauge what your real competition is, you will eventually wither and die.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:42 am 

Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2004 6:27 am
Posts: 141
My opinion, for what it's worth. Tourist railroads and railroad museums are very different animals. More closely related if the museum has a train ride. As I have observed my kids and many others of the same generation, I must agree with most research that there is far more demand for experience than stuff. Riding restored railroad equipment is an experience. Unfortunately, it isn't always a good one. It also isn't necessarily the experience people are looking for, and that is a key point.

Marketing to let people know you exist is far less expensive and risky than trying to convince people to sample your product. I do not believe our product is in high demand, so the latter type of marketing is needed. Younger generations are sophisticated and I believe the quality of the marketing as well as the experience must be quite high for them to decide to participate and ultimately enjoy it.

I feel to some extent we still have a "build it and they will come" mentality. This won't work unless your enterprise is situated such that tons people physically trip over it accidentally. We love our stuff and our rides, and too often our marketing assumes that everyone else does as well. This unfortunately carries over to the experience in many cases. Riding an unkempt, uncomfortable railroad car through unappealing scenery operated by seemingly unfriendly people will not get high marks.

It seems history itself has lost a lot of the appeal it once had. Like everything else, this will change. In the meantime, we need to collectively put our very best foot forward if we are to survive until we are in demand again.

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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 12:39 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 26, 2013 7:20 pm
Posts: 187
We have a pretty nice railroad museum here in Alabama, but I never hear anything about it. If you want to find out what, if anything, is happening at the museum, you have to go to their web page and hope it has been updated recently. On the other hand, we have a great airplane museum and seems like I see or hear something about it every few days, on TV, in the paper, in magazines, billboards, etc. I would call the railroad museum fairly successful and the airplane museum very successful.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:22 pm 

Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:08 am
Posts: 60
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
Otto Vondrak wrote:
Pegasuspinto wrote:
Also, if your excuse for bad attendance and volunteering begins with "Kids these days just don't", you've pretty much lost the fight.


This. Thank you. So true. Stop blaming others, and take a hard look at your organization before you throw you exasperated hands up in the air and blame "those darn millennials and their facebooks."


With all due respect, I have to disagree.

Various segments of "entertainment" have been dramatically changed, or even close to killed, by the changes in the marketplace. This is not "blaming the kids," but a tacit acknowledgement that the competition for attention is stiffer than before.

Don't believe me? Where are all those movie theaters of yore? Formerly high-end shopping malls are being bulldozed. Even a business one thought permanently lucrative and secure--pornography--is being killed by the elimination of the middleman as the internet removes barriers to distribution, sales, production, and even marketplace entry.

True, "them kids and their newfangled toys" isn't an excuse to maintain the status quo. But if you don't accurately gauge what your real competition is, you will eventually wither and die.


But as a counterpoint to this. Vinyl records.

They seemed to be dying off as expected as an obsolete media but were able to 'rebrand' the medium on their more 'genuine' listening experience. To the point over 3.2 million such records were sold in the UK in 2015. it's nowhere near what it was, but it seems to have found a new, nice niche with plenty of youth support.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:16 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 215
Along with the vinyl records thought... people seem to really crave nostalgia and nostalgic experiences. This past summer I noticed how many people rode the #765 Chicago trips in costume... they took it from a train ride to a nostalgic experience. Same thing at the Henry Ford's Old Car and Ragtime Festival (where they had both of the villages coal burning 4-4-0's up and running while the Torch Lake was taking it easy in the historic roundhouse... the one with the working armstrong turntable next to the working coal tower... sorry.. can't help but brag about the henry ford) - the village was FILLED with people of all ages dressed in period and enjoying the ragtime music, the old cars, the trains, and the overall nostalgic experience.

That's where some operations are missing out... the #765 and the Henry Ford both did several little things to tug on that nostalgic heartstring. Both had live, period specific music. Both offered lots of photo ops.. and most of all... everything complimented each other. The style of dress compliments the era of the steam trains (and old cars in the Henry Ford's case), the style of music compliments the train and the style of dress... it all works together.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:49 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:08 am
Posts: 60
In the UK's case during 1940's wartime weekends and 1950s weekends they tend to offer a small discount to anyone who turns up in period costume. Those weekends tend to be packed to the rafters with younger folks enjoying themselves.


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:57 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8952
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
More from the same newspaper,also painfully relevant:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainme ... story.html

Quote:
Art museums are perhaps the last major institution in America to fully embrace the internet. They have taken at best baby steps to serve a potentially massive online audience. Too often, they behave as though the World Wide Web didn’t exist — both internationally and in Baltimore, where just 23.3 percent of the total artworks are online.

“I don’t think museums really understand how huge the Internet is or how much attention and curiosity a couple of billion people can have,” said Michael Peter Edson, co-founder of the United Nations’ museum-in-progress. “There’s just an enormous, humongous, gigantic audience out there connected to the internet that is starving for good ideas, authentic ideas, and they want to learn.”


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:16 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:08 am
Posts: 60
Even the UK's guilty of that. The National Gallery has over 2,300 paintings in its collection.

300 have been photographed and put online for people to tour.

I'd say the issue with "onlining" everything in a haste is.... how will that get you in through the door? Interactivity seems to be the greater key. I can google up any kind of documentary, or image of just about anything I can think of. You need to sell me an experience.

Especially as they've found that people view the Mona Lisa (the most famous painting in the world) for an average of just 5-10 seconds.

The same could be said of many tourist railroads both in the US and elsewhere. What experience do you sell me aside from stress free travel where I can enjoy the scenery? Do you tell me the history? Do you know of any colourful or interesting figures related to the railroad?

Is there a genuine Unique Selling Point that you can sell to me that might interest me as a casual tourist, not just a railfan?


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:05 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2015 12:21 pm
Posts: 33
My three cents:

Many years ago, the museum i am involved with, did a survey of visitors, to determine what was the most common type of visitor. It was John Q Public with kids. The average person who doesn't have a particular interest in trains, but wants to see and discover something different.

First thing i would recommend to all, is to put yourself in the shoes of John Q public and go around your museum:

-Is your site well cared for? Basic stuff, like grass cut, accessible buildings are clean, bathrooms maintained?

-Do you have an area where families can have a meal (pick nic for example) under cover?

-Does your site look like a hodgpodge of junk with no rime or reason? Every museum has equipment that is not in the best of shape. But are the worse ones in plain vue or is there a concerted effort to put them out of site, and to keep the better equipment in vue of the public?

-What am i looking at? Basic common sence information, like year built, what type of equipment and where it was used? Long winded railfan type explanation may loose the average visitor.

-Do you have something that will entertain the average child? Something like a garden train, or a small ride, or a small model layout? The average child's attention span is limited.

-Put a different spin on what you are presenting. For example, today, the average visitor is very much concerned about the environment. Streetcars were very much prevalent in the 1st half of the 20th century and is once again making a comeback. Emphasize the connection between the past and today - electric streetcars are once again in fashion and environmentaly friendly!

Len


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 Post subject: Re: Museums search for solutions to reverse attendance slide
PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:07 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2016 6:12 pm
Posts: 104
Here in Fillmore, CA we have a dichotomy. The Fillmore & Western RR, a for profit enterprise is very popular. It is the only tourist RR between San Diego and Santa Cruz.
Orange county notwithstanding.
They run all kinds of events like Pumpkinliners, Xmas tree trains, Zombie trains, dinner trains, etc.
However, the membership of the local RR society seems to be shrinking, as older members pass or move.
There have been discussions about how to attract new members, but I have not heard any ideas.


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