Gone in 60 Seconds--SRCCON Ticketing Changes

When we started SRCCON in 2014, we were unsure how popular it would be. Journalism as an industry was pretty packed with conferences already and we had no idea if the types of journalism-code folks we were thinking about making the conference for could cram another into their schedule.

Well, in 2014, we sold out SRCCON in three minutes. It sold so fast, in fact, that we thought that our ticketing system had broken.

When planning for 2015, we knew that there would be more demand than our inaugural year. So to try and meet that demand, we increased capacity for the conference, moved it to Minneapolis (the majority of our attendees year one took a quick train down to Philly from New York), and put tickets for SRCCON 2015 on open sale in April of last year.

They sold out in 45 seconds–that’s faster than Nic Cage can steal a car.

Which brings us to this year. Assuming that demand continued to increase again this year–and our session pitches were up 50% from last so there’s no reason for us to doubt that assumption–we were looking at an open sale that would be decided by little more than the speed of someone’s internet connection. When the difference between getting a ticket and not getting one is less than the time spread of Olympic downhill skiing, something has to give and so this year at SRCCON, we’re doing away with the mad dash of an open sale and instead selling tickets via a lottery.

So for SRCCON 2016, instead of making sure you’re at your desk at the exact moment tickets go on sale and hoping that your router behaves and your trackpad reads your tap and every other thing lines up exactly right, you’ll have six days to get your name into the lottery and, if selected, you’ll have 48 hours to purchase your ticket.

We know a lottery builds extra complexity in for attendees. And we know that lotteries don’t actually solve the problem of ticket scarcity, they just change the way they’re distributed. But we do feel like this approach helps alleviate the stress and strain that comes from a nearly-impossible sprint for tickets.

We’re increasing capacity this year as well. We’ll be 275 strong in Portland in July, up significantly from the 125 attendees we originally planned for at our first SRCCON in Philadelphia (we ended up cramming an additional 50 people in that year), but we do firmly believe that SRCCON needs to stay small to work. We like being able to sit down to meals together in our main room and have sessions that stay a size that allows for deep participation, so we’re not suddenly upping our numbers significantly. And beyond changing our approach to open sale, the way we approach the rest of our tickets is built from previous years.

  • As stated, our largest batch of tickets will go on sale via a lottery:
    • The lottery registration window is May 18-May 24 at noon ET.
    • We will notify people by 5pm ET May 25 of their status in the lottery.
    • People selected will have until 5pm ET Friday May 27 to purchase their ticket.
  • Another large batch of tickets goes to our session facilitators. We’ll be notifying session facilitators on May 11 if their proposal was accepted and they’ll have a ticket reserved for them for purchase.
  • As we have done in previous years, we will hold back a batch of tickets to make available for sale to people from small and non-coastal news orgs and those from underrepresented communities, one of several methods we take to ensure a diverse spectrum of perspectives and voices attend SRCCON.
  • Another batch of tickets will be given to recipients of our scholarship initiative, which is open for applications today and closes May 16, as well as to volunteers.
  • The final handful of tickets will be distributed to the partners and sponsors that help cover the vast majority of the costs of SRCCON.

One final note about our approach to a ticket lottery: We heard from many previous SRCCON attendees, both this year and last, that they were hesitant to try to register for a future SRCCON because they wanted people who hadn’t previously attended to be able to go. While we think that is a wonderful sign of how generous this community is and we believe a successful SRCCON has a healthy number of new voices, we also don’t want previous attendees to feel like they shouldn’t apply for a ticket for fear of taking someone else’s spot. So our lottery system is designed to ensure that new SRCCON participants will get a healthy percentage of all available tickets. So whether you’re a SRCCON alum or a SRCCON newcomer, we want you to put your name in and would love to have you at SRCCON this year.

At OpenNews we always try to iterate on our approach to things. We’re excited to try this new approach to ticket sales at SRCCON and more than anything we’re excited to have you involved in making SRCCON great again this year. Hope to see you in Portland!

posted May 05, 2016 | posted in SRCCON