When news that the Salt Lake City FanX last weekend claimed to be the third largest comic con in the US came out earlier this week, there was some questioning by some veteran con observers of whether this number was accurate, given the number of people shown in photos. I reached out to the show runner Dan Farr to ask how the attendance number was arrived at, and he graciously replied:
Thanks for reaching out to me about this. I know there is always a lot of questions around how different events count attendee numbers. We based our numbers on estimated individuals not the turnstyle number (counting people each time they come). We had about 60-70K ticketed attendees (in Sept we had just over 50K ticketed) and then we added the number of non-ticketed free kids that we estimated at .5 per adult ticket. That was the same formula we used in Sept last year so either way it was clearly significant growth over the past 6 months. We had over 400,000 square feet of exhibit space plus 115,000 square feet of indoor ticketing area which was double the floor space we had in Sept. We also had around 50 – 75K square feet of meeting space for our panels etc.
So there you go, the number is an estimate, not a ticket count, but it is a consistent estimate with with the previous show in Salt Lake City. I appreciate Farr’s honesty in stating how this number was reached. Clearly there were a LOT of people at the event, whether you think the #3 claim is deserved or not.
I also asked Farr about the PR statement that the SLCC Facebook page had a reach of 2.5 million when it has just over 92,000 likes. He replied:
The reach of 2.5 million is based on the Facebook analytic numbers about how many people saw our posts during the week of the event.
So there you go…some weird FB metric I won’t even go into.
I notice that Awesome Con in Washington DC has claimed attendance of 40,000 and to be honest, their photos look even less like that number. Once again, I’m sure this was a great and successful event however the numbers were derived.
Once again, we’ve been seeing a lot of wishful thinking/porky pies* over the years on con attendance, and we’ll only see more of that as the business gets bigger. I would entreat show runners to stick as close to the truth as they can. An aura of flim-flammery and undue hype will hurt this still-rising event category more than it will help.
[Photo from the SLCC FB page, of the FanX volunteers.]
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.