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May 3, 2009

Do's and don'ts for local nightlife Web sites

supercomputer.JPGMidnight Sun commenter eCommerce Consultant aka Ethan Giffin takes the lead on this piece about Web design:

Since I've spent more than half my life either slinging records, owning a venue or running a digital marketing agency, ol’ Sammo asked me to step in and give a state of the nightlife address: Internet edition.

There is no doubt that over the last three years, the Web sites of Baltimore's nightclubs and bars have gotten better. But they're still not great.

Most of this change is influenced by the explosive growth of social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook or Twitter.

In fact, the best promoters across the country utilize all of these tools to build their communities.  The truth, though, is that most Baltimore promoters and operators have truly failed to harness the web and make it play an active role within their marketing plans ...

I took a cross sampling of 10 local venues. All of these venues and promoters have special events and cover charges. 

Of the local 10 web sites I looked at:

  • Seven had updated events calendars
  • Zero had an RSS feed available of those events (What?!?!)
  • Three had recently updated photo galleries
  • Four had a linked and recently updated Facebook page
  • Four had a linked and recently updated MySpace page
  • Five had an easily accessible email newsletter sign up
  • One had a linked and recently updated Twitter account 

I would say that this is a pretty poor report card. With a little bit of time, money and sweat equity, there is no reason that they can’t be doing a better job of promoting online.

More than once, I found out about an event too late to go to it. All the promoters had to do was send out a quick and simple Facebook message to their friend list ahead of time, and I would have been able to make the event.

One of the best local night life presences, love 'em or hate 'em, are Bob and Robby of JetSetMafia.  They don’t have the cleanest sites in terms of graphic design or functionality, but that is made up for by the sheer amount of photos and content they publish online on a weekly basis.

Hiring a photographer for almost every event they promote, then having those photos published on their Web site within 48 hours of the event is a definite key to their success. They also engage their audience from many different places, including MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as well as SMS text messaging.

It’s 2009. The days of massive radio buys and dropping 10,000 fliers on the ground are over. Developing and connecting with online audiences is what will help Baltimore’s venues survive the current economic storm.

(AP photo)


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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:00 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Comments

Great post. It's amazing how clueless business owners are today. So many still think of the internet as something extra.

Well that was a lovely shameless plug for JetSetMafia.

Fortunately for most people, they already know how crappy a resource JetSetMafia is.

If you cite JetSetMafia as "the best event resource for Baltimore," it essentially illustrates how completely out of touch you are (or how ingrained in the misinformed promoter world you are).

It means you haven't even bothered to use the services you're saying these businesses should use, like Twitter. If you did, you'd have learned of sites like Localist.com, which has a bajillion more events than JetSetMafia, plus it lists all the venues in the city, plus people can use the site to find out where people are going.

What good is a site that ONLY lists events they're promoting? Makes the events in Baltimore feel very one-note and boring. According to JSM, there are 3 events happening this Friday. Wow. AND ONE OF THEM IS IN CAPS LOCK WHICH MEANS IT'S GOING TO BE REALLY GOOD.

Getting back to your original point, yes, venues have a long way to go when it comes to caring about their Web presence, but they'll come around soon. They have no choice. You should look at more venues, like Bad Decisions, which I probably still has its doors open because of its Twitter following.

i agree 100%. baltimore bars/clubs, if you're not building your online presence, then "yur doin it rong." it takes an almost ridiculously small amount of effort (in comparison to paying for paper/radio services) to get online, check your mail, and toss up a few updates about what your specials are that night.

i haven't check it recently, but when i was still using myspace, Red House Tavern in Canton was always pretty good about consistently updating and sending out event notices.

haha, I probably wouldn't use Red House Tavern as a stellar example of PR and networking since they're closing their doors. But, I definitely agree that bars in Baltimore could be using the web more. Barking Dog in Bethesda does a good job using Facebook as a promotional tool. I'm always aware of what's going on down there even though I rarely make the trek.

I offer a free resource to venues I tape shows at: I supply the code to embed an audio player on their website that plays live tracks of bands with upcoming shows at their venue or sometimes I put a recent full recording from that venue. While I'm biased, I think this is a great offer, a way to add different and always changing music on your website. To date, only the Metro Gallery, The Talking Head and Joe Squared took me up on the offer, and, I think, Joe Squared is the only one that continues to use it. While "free" doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing, I just don't understand how music venues can pass on adding music to their calendar, especially when they don't have music on their site to begin with.

Speaking of lack of online publicity... What's up in Baltimore for Cinco de Mayo? I heard about the Fed Hill Don't Know/No Idea/Muggy's/Taps thing, but I'm not sure if we're going to make the journey across the pond for it. Has anybody heard of anything else good going on? Have the day off on Wednesday, so I'd kinda like to get a little crazy.

@Synecdoche

Thanks for the comments... Love Localist. Keep in mind that this was an informal survey of promoters and venues. All of which are looking to attract 200 or more people. Not event aggregator sites like Localist or Upcoming or corner bars like Bad Decisions or Don't Know.

I agree with most of this but also hate when people over-do promotions. Constant emails, twittering every 2 seconds about an event that evening, way too many bulletins - I think that can really annoy customers.

So what is a good site to use? I used to go to Baltimorespecials.com...but that thing has bars listed that don't even exsist anymore. Oh...and JetSet sucks as does MetroMix.

sarah, i agree when it comes to text messaages. i get charged for texts, and i do not appreciate it when bar owners text me their specials.

searching, it really depends. online databases of bar specials are hard to keep up to date. localist.com and 600block.com both do a pretty good job of staying current.

Good article Evan.

It's 2009, third-graders with lemonade stands have better websites than some Baltimore bars.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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