The Text Generation

How can a major venue get the word out about upcoming events?

Advertising is a given. But even the best TV and radio saturation buys running in tandem with full-page newspaper ads can’t always reach that all-important target demo. With hundreds of channels on cable and literally millions of choices on the Internet, there’s always a distraction, something that will grab your customers’ attentions first, thereby causing them to miss your vital announcement.

Which is why Portland’s Rose Quarter is making news with text messaging. Amazingly cheap when compared with other mediums, text messaging can reach those who need to know at a fraction of what print or broadcast costs. In fact, when the Rose Quarter was mulling over text messaging, one of the major issues wasn’t the cost, but the size of the database, and whether to wait until the database had fattened up before management moved forward.

"We started with 3,000 people," Eric Blankenship, Global Spectrum Director of Marketing at the Rose Quarter, told Pollstar. "That was what we wrestled with. Do we want to wait until it’s 10,000? Do we want to wait until it’s 15,000? And we didn’t. We have 3,000 people who want our message via text messaging. Let’s give it to them."

The Rose Quarter launched its first round of text messaging with a ticket presale announcing the June 13th Faith Hill / Tim McGraw Soul2Soul date at Portland’s Rose Garden Arena. All 3,000 participants received a password and Web link to purchase tickets before the general public.

How did it go?

"Through text messaging alone, we sold $25,000 worth of tickets on the first day," Blankenship said. "Again, it goes back to, ‘Should we do something with the 3,000 people or should we wait until its bigger?’ If we had waited a little bit we wouldn’t have sold $25,000 worth of tickets. So, for us it was good."

Like most facilities, The Rose Quarter maintains both an e-mail and cell phone list of customers who have opted in to receive venue announcements. But one advantage texting has over e-mail is that e-mail’s effectiveness depends on how often people check for messages. However, texting is almost instantaneous.

Then there’s the viral potential. Like e-mail, a person can forward a text message to friends. A text message sent to one person might be forwarded to several friends interested in the same event. Kind of like old-fashioned word-of-mouth but at warp speed.

"If it helps to sell more tickets, that’s great," Blankenship said. "They forward that message on, and then if they want to come back and sign up for our text messaging, that’s great too."

SMS text messaging is one of two new communication features launched recently by the Rose Quarter. The other is the Toolbar, an Internet browser add-on that provides Web surfers a direct click to Rose Quarter events.

Similar to toolbars offered by Google and Yahoo, the Toolbar keeps users up to date with venue events and provides presale passwords, weather information and direct links to Rose Quarter sports teams Portland Trailblazers, Winter Hawks and LumberJax. Sure, a user could assemble a list of bookmarks to accomplish most of what the toolbar is designed for. But why knock yourself out when the Rose Quarter makes venue information simple?

But text messaging, toolbars and e-mails only represent one aspect of the Rose Quarter’s digital experience. There are also business opportunities yet to be explored.

"Our sponsors are always looking for something more than just a sign in the arena," Blankenship said. "They want something more interactive. They want something that drives traffic to their locations. They want to connect with their fans on a one-to-one basis.

"Our e-mail database is one way to do that. But now we have two other ways, through text messaging and the toolbar – two additional ways we can integrate our sponsors with our customers. And we’ll find ways to do that in the near future."

By using e-mail, text messages and toolbars, nobody can say the folks at the Rose Garden are not covering all the bases when it comes to spreading the word. E-mail may be dandy, but toolbars are quicker. And text messaging is the fastest of them all.

"You have to assume that someone is checking their e-mail," said Blankenship about the Toolbar. "Now we have two ways that you don’t have to be on e-mail . . . If you’re in front of your computer, that’s great. But you don’t have to be in e-mail. The text message hits your phone right away. There’s a little buzz or a beep on your phone that tells you you have a new message. All of a sudden it says, ‘Hey! We just released 10th-row seats for Tim and Faith. Get them now!"


License To Lie

The California Senate is mulling over a privacy law bill that, if approved, will ban private investigators from using false statements or deceitful practices to obtain personal information.

Sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? The movie industry doesn’t think so. Neither does the recording industry. Both groups have asked for exemptions from the bill, claiming the restrictions will thwart their efforts against copyright piracy.

It’s called "pretexting" and it refers to posing as someone you’re not in order to obtain someone else’s personal information, such as phone records and credit reports. Pretexting was one of the uglier aspects of Hewlett-Packard’s internal probe into boardroom leaks and resulted in criminal charges filed against people involved with the investigation.

But the movie and music industries say restrictions on pretexting could severely limit their efforts to combat piracy.

In a letter to State Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America said the proposed legislation could impair anti-piracy efforts by preventing investigators for both groups from sometimes assuming false identities during investigations, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While saying their investigators do not use aliases to obtain customers’ personal records, both trade organizations have expressed concerns that the proposed legislation is overreaching and might prohibit their investigators from posing as crooks in order to catch crooks.

The RIAA’s proposed amendment to the bill asks that any copyright or trademark owner be allowed to use "pretexting or other investigative techniques to obtain personal information about a customer or employee," while investigating copyright or trademark piracy.

So far it doesn’t look like the RIAA’s proposed amendment will make it into the final version of the bill. Sen. Corbett, who wrote the bill, chairs the State Senate’s judiciary committee and is known for her consumer advocate work. According to the Times, it is not likely she will allow a "hostile amendment" tacked on to her bill.

And then there’s the question as to whether those who fight the war on intellectual property piracy are worthy of being exempt from the law of the land when it comes to pretexting.

"The whole point of these pretexting bills is to rein in private law enforcement that is not accountable to the public or to normal rules," Chris Hoofnagle, a privacy attorney at UC Berkeley’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic, told the Times. "There isn’t much sense in allowing an entire industry to play with a different rule book."


WiFi HiFi

For those of you who have yet to buy an iPod, Zune or whatever, there’s a new gadget on the block. And unlike all those other players, you do not need a computer to rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s the Sansa Connect, a WiFi-enabled player sporting 4 gigs of flash memory and a $250 price tag, the same price as a the 30-gig video iPod. Except the Sansa Connect is 26 gigs lighter and does not play video.

But the Sansa Connect is more than just another player albeit a wireless one. The player is the result of a three-way collaboration between SanDisk, Yahoo Music and mobile entertainment technology company Zing. So you’re buying more than just a no-cables-attached player. You’re getting a wireless gadget that works seamlessly with the Yahoo Music subscription service.

This means you can listen to LAUNCHcast Internet Radio, browse photos and connect with friends via Yahoo Messenger. In addition to its Yahoo Music compatibility, Sansa Connect also supports all Microsoft PlaysForSure music subscription services. So you don’t have to Yahoo if you don’t want to.

"The Sansa Connect is a new breed of music player," said Daniel Schreiber, senior VP and general manager for SanDisk’s Audio Video Business Unit. "It untethers consumers from their computers, and allows them to get new music and share their recommendations anytime, anywhere – over an open wireless Internet network."