Digital ticketing must accommodate analog customers

Penn State’s announcement that it is all but eliminating paper tickets for sports is the kind of forward-thinking step we’d expect from a school of its stature.

But we have to caution the school to remember that not all fans are iPhone-toting millenials who live by their screens.

The venerable paper ticket still has its place in the world. Switching to apps and cards has some advantages–to the venue. For the fans, it removed the sense of ownership that an individual has when purchasing admission to an event.

Beginning this year, fans must access digital tickets on a mobile device using the Ticketmaster app or by downloading them to their mobile wallet for most sports (football season tickets were printed on paper and mailed.) Print-at-home PDF tickets will no longer be accepted for entry at Penn State home games, the university announced this week (see story, Page B1.)

While the school–and other facilities making similar changes–are trying to accommodate those who shun an electronic takeover of life, we’re not sure it has gone far enough.

The goal, according to the school, is to reduce ticket fraud. But it also limits the ability of a fan who purchased a ticket to transfer ownership in a traditional way–something that should be their right. This, too, removes some of the sense of ownership of the ticket from the fan.

Penn State Athletics notes that fans who do not own a smartphone can have their tickets printed at the ticket office on game day with photo ID, but that seems to create an unfair inconvenience to those fans.

Other sports at Penn State are going a step further, transitioning to electronic season-ticket cards, a more rigid system that may make it even harder for fans to transfer their tickets.

Tickets for State College Spikes baseball games, played in a facility shared with Penn State, will not be part of this change.