Should Associations Offer Conference Subscription Packages?

Major League Baseball teams have started offering Netflix-style ticket subscription packages to boost attendance numbers and attract younger fans to the ballpark. Is it time for associations to consider something similar for their conferences?

We’ve written a lot about the rise of consumer and retailer interest in subscription services here at Associations Now. Some pieces have looked at its implications for the traditional association membership model, while others have discussed what it could mean for content.

One area where there hasn’t been a lot of talk about subscription services is meetings and events. But thanks to Major League Baseball, that’s changing.

Earlier this week, the New York Mets announced that they’d be offering a new Netflix-style ticket subscription package this season. For $39 a month, the “Amazin’ Mets Pass” lets fans score standing-room-only tickets to 78 home games. People who sign up for the pass, which auto-renews every month, can also upgrade to seated tickets on weekdays.

“The program is targeted to the millennial demographic and unconventional audiences. It’s a great way to gain access to Citi Field at a low cost,” Chris Zaber, the Mets’ senior vice president of ticket sales, told the New York Post.

While this is a new option for Mets fans, other MLB teams have been experimenting with a ballpark pass for a few seasons now and continue to tweak or expand those offerings year after year. For example, the Minnesota Twins are introducing a redesigned Twins Pass program this season to boost declining attendance numbers.

“There’s a new generation of fans who just want access to the ballpark, who like to watch the game from various different spots—or hang out at the Bat & Barrel or Hrbek’s,” Twins President Dave St. Peter told the Star Tribune. “We recognize we need to find ways to connect with younger fans, to push our attendance back to a level that’s representative of the market.”

Whether your association’s meeting attendance is declining or you’re trying to reach the next generation of attendees, could a conference subscription package be something to consider?

When it comes to online education and web-based conferences, a lot of associations have already said yes to subscription offerings. For instance, the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics has a web conference subscription, where members can save $240 by purchasing access to 10 events for $750, while the American Correctional Association offers an individual e-learning subscription for $300. (And, psst, here at ASAE we have ASAE Learning Online, which offers monthly and annual subscriptions.)

Yet, when it comes to face-to-face events, it was difficult for me to find an example of an association trying something along the lines of the MLB. And that didn’t come as a surprise, because rethinking your conference pricing strategy can be scary, and it can come with significant revenue consequences.

Perhaps the place to start for associations is to consider offering members a conference subscription package for local events. For a fixed monthly price, they would get access to your face-to-face events within driving distance (or some other predetermined radius.) This could be a good way to get new people in the door or even to re-engage long-time members who haven’t been to an event in a while.

And if you did expand the subscription to include your signature events, like your annual meeting, maybe subscribers would get access to only certain parts of it—or something else akin to standing-room-only tickets in an MLB ballpark.

What pros and cons should associations weigh if they’re debating whether to offer a conference subscription package? Tell us in the comments.

(cmannphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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