While the recent certification process put into place by Google for secondary ticket sales sites looking to continue advertising their wares via the popular AdWords search engine marketing platform has drawn headlines, its actual implementation on the ground appears to be spotty (at best) in the second week of enforcement.
The prevailing methodology among several major websites appears to be one of ‘comply to the bare minimum – if at all,’ and it doesn’t appear that the search engine giant has taken any measures to crack down to this point.
We took a look at some of the major marketplaces for ticketing on the eve of Google’s new rules going live, and found that basically nobody had turned on their compliant website templates yet. At midnight, many sites did change. But in the several days that have since passed, compliance appears to have slid further and further from many of the key websites in the industry, which begs the question – are different size companies playing by different rules?
Starting off as we did the other day, we take a look at Ticketmaster, which offers both primary and secondary ticketing options on its main website. There are exactly zero references to the site being a resale marketplace with tickets above or below face value on Ticketmaster.com – a violation of the fact that any resale site is required to post those two details in prominent fashion (the top 20% of the site, in fact) on both its homepage and any landing page pointed to by a search engine campaign in AdWords.
Even on Ticketsnow.com, Ticketmaster’s specific secondary market, the disclaimer “Tickets in the TicketsNow resale marketplace are priced by the listing seller and often exceed face value.” Is near the bottom of the page – not visible until scrolled down to on our browser (google chrome). Another required disclaimer “TicketsNow is a resale marketplace and is not a box office or venue.” Is even further down, and in faint gray fine print.
Ticketmaster does, however, appear to be in compliance on landing pages, where a narrow thread of text (which certainly doesn’t call any undue attention to itself, but to our knowledge there were no requirements about font size or weight) reads “Our marketplace includes resale tickets. Prices are set by the ticket seller, and may be above or below face value.”
AXS and its mobile-only product Flash Seats don’t appear to have any indication that secondary marketplace status exists anywhere on their systems, despite the fact that they absolutely contain secondary inventory. It isn’t until you navigate to a specific team area that you are given the disclosure information that there is a secondary marketplace happening.
Other sites that appear wholly outside of compliance as of Monday afternoon are Broadway.com, which shows no indication of its resale/non-box office stature whatsoever. The same goes with Showtickets.com.
The inconsistency we see here is the norm across the board. Interestingly enough, it appears that the sites that were always the target of anti-secondary stories – marketplaces like TicketNetwork, Vivid Seats, and StubHub – are the ones playing by the rules.
StubHub, the well-known secondary marketplace owned and operated by eBay, has its homepage disclaimer up above its search box, but it plays with the language fairly liberally. “StubHub is the world’s top destination for ticket buyers and resellers. Prices may be higher or lower than face value.” That same disclaimer sits atop landing pages for the events themselves.
TicketNetwork has similar placement for its disclaimer, stating in plain English that “TicketNetwork is a resale marketplace. Ticket prices may be above or below face value.” Vivid Seats says almost exactly the same thing, right next to its site label atop the homepage. It is a little cuter with its landing page language, which reads, in slightly grayed-out text over the banner image “Our Buyer Guarantee ensures valid tickets, on time. Resellers may list tickets above or below face value.”
Given how this whole new system has rolled out, it’s entirely possible that Google will bring those who are falling short of compliance some time and a reminder that they are also beholden to the new rules. But for now, it seems fairly clear that a few operators are going to see how far they can push it before they give their customers the same transparency that the leaders in the secondary market are already offering, in the spirit of the new rules. We’ll await to see further updates from Google and those sites which currently stand outside of what the reported requirements for compliance are.