Launching a digital stage

2 December 2020

This is an old post, so may include broken links and/or out-of-date information

Show image for The Grinning Man: a man hold a crumpled red scarf in his fists, either side of face, so the scarf resembles an ominous 'smile'

Back in September our friends at Bristol Old Vic got in touch to discuss an exciting new project. They planned to share a catalogue of shows behind a paywall.

With stages dark, the team were keen to find ways to generate income whilst continuing to share the experience of theatre and engage with audiences. Working with the team, we determined the core goals vital to making this project a success:

  • Capture data from purchasers – ideally in Spektrix, so it sits with all other CRM data
  • Keep people on Bristol Old Vic’s website. It already does a great job of sharing content, stories, and the brand, and tracking user journeys. (The team didn’t want to manage a separate system, have to duplicate content, or be restricted in what they could do – by using a templated platform.)
  • Be cost effective! Revenue generation is crucial, so whilst the solution had to work brilliantly, it couldn't cost the earth – and needed to be 'future-proofed' as much as possible.

Built-in flexibility

For the Bristol Old Vic team this wasn’t just about solving their challenge; they knew other theatres would be offering digital content too. So, the team wanted to work on a solution that was sharable – something other Supercool clients could also benefit from.

This meant we needed a solution that would work for multiple clients.

Monetise anything!

We had to take into consideration the various ways organisations might sell content. This could be via tickets, a donation ask, a membership pass, or – in the case of Bristol Old Vic – a merchandise sale.

We also had to consider that we wouldn’t know what content would be put behind a paywall. Whilst Bristol Old Vic wanted to share video content, what if someone wanted to share a programme? Or behind-the-scenes clips? Or sensitive information (like course resources or rehearsal schedules)?

Integration (currently with Spektrix)

We were keen to keep the customer journey quick, straightforward, and within the current website. We also wanted to make sure Bristol Old Vic could use Spektrix’s offers feature to provide customers with discounts or other special offers.

The first challenge was working out how we'd know that someone should have access.

We decided to use customer tags. These can be triggered automatically when a customer meets specified criteria, or added manually. Using tags means we don’t need to worry about how different organisations are going to sell access to content, we just need a tag ID.

(Our initial focus was on a Spektrix-integrated paywall feature – but keep your eyes peeled for Tessitura news!)

A great user journey

Once we knew we could check tags against a customer record, we needed to get the customer to log in. We were conscious we didn't want to leave them at a dead end, so when a user logs in, we return them back to previous page before logging in.

If they don’t (yet) have access, there’s clear messaging to let them know. And if they do, the paywall is removed and they can view the content.

Paywall modal includes a 'Buy now' button, account user's name and a message about not having access to content

By keeping the paywall on Bristol Old Vic’s existing website, and using the Spektrix purchase path, we’ve kept things fast and familiar for the audience.

Passwords can easily be reset if needed, and all the important data gets recorded against customers in Spektrix and in Google Analytics. Everyone's a winner!

Totally dynamic messaging

Every website we build is flexible, and every feature is considered with the future in mind. At every point, we want to avoid locking clients down to specific copy, links, images etc. Clients should have the power to edit any content – and not have to pay us to make small changes.

We also understand that, in this moment of flux, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to monetising digital content. Whilst using tags meant we didn’t need to worry about what was behind the paywall, we also had to consider that this meant copy would need to change too. Sometimes significantly.

Bristol Old Vic are selling ‘Passes’, for example, but what if an organisation wanted to sell a ticket? Or ask for a donation? Or reward loyal donors with early access to exclusive content?

To offer this level of flexibility, we've made sure that every part of the paywall copy can be edited – and even changed completely – within the CMS.

Results so far

Bristol Old Vic launched their second series of on-demand events on 20 November, and Passes were available to buy in advance.

More than 1,000 Passes sold (mostly Season Passes)

Generated 50% of target income so far – with 4 more shows to come!

For the first on-demand show, The Grinning Man, 18% of viewers were from outside the UK, with the US being the second largest group of fans.

There are still four more shows to launch. By staggering the season, Bristol Old Vic have cunningly created a sense of expectation – a reason to regularly engage with audiences, and keep them coming back for more.

At a time when art and entertainment are needed at home more than ever, being able to share our performances digitally has helped us to keep our audiences entertained and artists employed, and to develop new income streams, without massively increasing costs.

Jack Fayter – Campaigns Manager, Bristol Old Vic

The paywall feature is now being used on several other client websites:

What’s next?

We’re continuing to work closely with clients in terms of live streaming and sharing on-demand content.

With the paywall feature now being used across numerous websites, we’ll be making regular updates to features. The first – a login component that sits within the paywall model. We’re also looking at creating integrations with other ticketing platforms, and secure, robust streaming platforms that meet the needs of rights holders.

To find out more, or to arrange a chat about generating revenue from digital content get in touch:

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