Whenever I buy airline tickets I use one of the major airline aggregator sites, like Kayak or Travelocity. I don't really care who I buy my airline ticket from, I just want to know which airline will take me where I want to go for the smallest amount of money possible.
Not surprisingly, there's a group of similar sites for live events (sports, theater, concerts, et cetera) -- these include SeatQuest and TicketStumbler. The idea is that these sites aggregate search results from various other ticket sales shops. In industry parlance, this is known as "vertical search."
But starting today, there's a new kid on the block: FanSnap.
This Palo Alto startup touts the fact that it provides search results for "the latest ticket-level detail results from more than 50 of the leading ticket providers."
As Mike Janes, the CEO of FanSnap, told me in a phone interview: "We're just a search engine just like google, pointing you to the people who do have the tickets and will take your credit card."
Now, I'll admit, I'm not one to buy tickets at the last minute very often. If there's a show or a game that I know I want to go to -- much to my friends' annoyance -- I'll buy the tickets as early as possible and will hound said friends to do the same. But I could definitely see how a site like this could come in handy, so I wanted to give FanSnap a spin, and compare it to its brethren.
In order to do that, I'd have to pick an event. As a Santa Monica native, if there's one event I'd love to catch tonight, it would be to watch my favorite Boys in Blue (hopefully) pull one out in Chavez Ravine.
So I typed in "Dodgers" into the search box of each of these three ticket sites.
On FanSnap, the first ticket result was tonight's National League Championship Series game. I clicked through and was taken to a map of Dodger Stadium, with various colored circles indicating the location and price of each ticket. A mouse-over any particular section reveals the number of tickets available and the respective price. As of this writing, the cheapest seats are in the top deck, and go for 17 dollars via StubHub. One click through and I'm off to StubHub to actually pay for the tickets.
Next, I turned to TicketStumbler, and typed in "Dodgers" into their search field. The first 20 results were for games that were already played in September -- if you're a ticket company, you'd think that you'd be removing tickets to events that are long over. It took me a couple seconds to figure out that I was supposed to click on the left side of the screen, where it says "Los Angeles Dodgers Playoff." Then, finally, I got a listing for upcoming Game 5.
Unlike FanSnap, TicketStumbler lacks a nice, easy-to-use visual graphic of the venue. To be fair, there is a stadium map in the lower left of the screen that I can check -- but that doesn't provide much more value than printing a map on a piece of paper. People, this is 2008. A multimedia CD-ROM from 1995 has more interactivity than a web-based static map, ok?
Anyway, I was intrigued by the fact that the first listing was for a set of three tickets at just a Hamilton apiece. But when I went to click "buy tickets," I was taken to a StubHub auction site, where someone had listed these tickets for auction at that same price. Ok, fair enough.
SeatQuest was something else entirely. When I typed "dodgers" into the front door search field, it asked me: "Did you mean? Detroit Tigers Memphis Tigers Mens Basketball Los Angeles Dodgers LSU Tigers Football" and a bunch of other useless search results. I'm not really sure how or why SeatQuest thinks that I meant the Tigers when I typed Dodgers -- it's a pretty unique sports team name -- but whatever. Off I went to click the third (!) search result. As expected, then was presented with a list of upcoming Dodgers events. Tonight's game was, as it should have been, the first search result.
The SeatQuest interface presents a map of the venue much in the same way that FanSnap does, except that to get the rollover effect, you have to move the mouse precisely on the blue dots in the particular section. FanSnap nicely makes the dots much larger and thus, easier to locate. I checked for the cheapest tickets, which were two $11 tickets (including the service fee) via TicketFast.
It's not clear to me if TicketFast is one of FanSnap's partners, because if it is, I'm a bit mystified as to why I couldn't buy those cheaper tickets. Janes, FanSnap's CEO also told me that TicketFast isn't yet one of their partners, which explains it. He also said that he didn't really view TicketFast and SeatQuest as competitors -- the company's main competitor was Google.
"We're not going to displace Google, but that's where the target is," he said.
I tried contacting some analysts to get their thoughts, but didn't get anywhere -- Gartner said they didn't have anyone covering this sector.
After a quick trial run it seems that FanSnap is definitely the new leader in the online ticket sales sector. That is to say, assuming that TicketFast isn't a partner, which would explain why I could find cheaper tickets elsewhere.
Anyone out there actually use these sites on a regular basis? What's been your experience?