Groupon founder Andrew Mason guides Casey Newton of Verge through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art using the latest version of Detour, a location-based outdoor audio tour app that now works indoors as well. Through your smartphone, Detour knows your location in the museum and presents the artworks in that specific gallery along with the associated audio recordings so you can wander (giving you the right information in the right place), as well as 15-30 minute “walks”. Parts of this Verge video are silly and the background music too loud, but it looks like smartphone technology now has the capability to be used at historic sites for self-guided tours of the buildings, landscape, and neighborhood in a way that’s more flexible and responsive to visitor interests.
The video below is a better explanation of Detour’s ability to “automatically guide you as you walk, almost like you’re there with a real person”. It debuted last year with ten Detours of San Francisco (including architecture) at $4.99.
Optimizing revenue by increasing pricing for special exhibits or peak times (e.g. weekends) is widely adopted in the performing arts (e.g., matinee vs evening performances at the theater) but rarely used by museums. A few museums, however, are beginning to experiment with dynamic or demand-based pricing to maximize their revenues. For example, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art increased their price $2 for the last four weeks they were open before renovation began and received no complaints. In 2008, the EMP Museum dropped its admission fee from $30 to $15 and it did not affect visitation, so in 2011 they increased prices and in 2013 they moved to 2013 to dynamic pricing. During the last 3 weeks, they earned an additional $15,000.
In “What Price is Right?”, a session at the recent AAM annual meeting, Heather Calvin (Museum of Science), Jill Robinson (TRG Arts), and Jessica Toon (EMP Museum) discussed how museums can use demand-based pricing strategies to set admission prices, service fees, discounts, and membership dues. It was a wide-ranging presentation so I’m sharing the highlights here to Continue reading