10312618_302588373237205_7088980933544204812_nWhen 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.]


  1. Thanks for the details. I was wondering about those numbers myself! Now if we could only hear from some vendors about how sales were compared to other shows….

  2. So they’re estimating for that every two adults at the con, there was one child? I find that unlikely.

  3. I think that .5 kids per adult might be a little on the high side for an estimate. That pretty much assumes that every two people has a kid with them. There are a lot more families with kids attending the cons, but there’s still a lot of younger adults and singles that don’t have kids.

  4. Yes, there were a lot of adults there with no kids, but there were also many with 3 to 5 non-ticketed kids.

  5. I think the 2-1 ratio of adults to children is too high. The SLC con organizers are essentially claiming that 30,000-35,000 children attended the show, but the SLC school district shows an enrollment of a little under 25,000 school-age students (as of 2012):


    So for their claim to be true, every school-age child in Salt Lake City would have had to attend the con (whether they were interested in the con or not), and then five to ten thousand more children.

  6. I’ve always thought that someone should do a in depth piece on the numbers game at conventions. To the average con goer it doesn’t matter. 100K is 50k, but to the exhibitor and artist it does. They see 100K, and think that is a show I should be at, and spend the money to get to. Now if they show up and the number was inflated that’s where I see an issue.

    Not saying Salt Lake’s number policy is wrong because I wasn’t there, but I think something has to be done about BS numbers. Because it does effect people that attend.

    I also want to say that lines can be deceiving. I was standing in a panel line at Wizard World a few months back, and I was as far away from the door as you could go, wrapped around multiple time. I asked one of the employees how many people fit in the room and if I would get it. He said it seated 1700 and yes I would get in, and then explained how lines are deceiving. Sure enough I got in and the room was only 3/4 full by that time.

  7. Given that most conventions arrive at the large numbers based on “turn-style” count (meaning they count every single person going in, so if you left & came back & left & came back you’d be counted as several people) this is really not that bad. Not to mention as another person pointed out in the comments, 70,000 tickets sold is still impressive! (It still also makes it one of the largest in the US.) Regarding children at conventions, from what I’ve heard Salt Lake is more family friendly, but even at conventions I’ve gone to – there were a lot of kids. Most parents that attended with a kid had more than one as well. What is clear based on these numbers is that 70,000 to 100,000 people attended (not too shabby).

    Regarding FB, I’m a social media manager so I run several pages for various clients (individuals & businesses). How many people actually interact with a page is always going to be higher than how many people “Like” the page. Just like with this article, only a handful of people commented on it (currently 12, counting myself), but I’m sure more than 12 people read this post.

    A Facebook “Like” is someone saying they want to follow your posts on their news feed. Most people just want to comment and say, “I was there today and Becky was great! Thanks!” or to post a complaint or post a picture of them at that location (as if the world cares what they ate), et cetera. These types of people do not generally click “Like.” Also that doesn’t factor in all the lurkers, which the internet is full of. The people that will constantly check a site but not create an account or in this case, click “Like.”

    Plus, every single time a post is shared or someone comments on a post, their friends see the post and may interact with it. (Think about it. How many times have you seen a funny meme from George Takei or another business/person pop up on your timeline even though you don’t “Like” their page?) Facebook counts this all under how many people your posts reached aka how many people actually saw your post. This number is NOT publicly posted, but is there for the business to know who their audience is, which posts get the most attention/interaction for their business, and so on.

  8. Al B 52…there are way more school districts and cities in Utah other than Salt Lake…why are you only taking into consideration one school district for a statewide (and to a degree, regionwide) event?

    JV…most comic and fan conventions actually do use unique count rather than turnstile count. Regardless I agree that their turnout was impressive and that their estimates seem reasonable.

    Doc, Lee, and Heidi: Have you been to Utah, and/or are you familiar with Mormons? They have a LOT of kids. I’d actually wager 1 kid for every 2 adults is a low estimate.

  9. Farr is very sensitive about the comments on their FB page, I commented “Squeezing as much blood out of a stone as possible…” I got got banned from making comments and my email block. Wow!

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