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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tickets were once mementos — physical items soaked in memories and nostalgia, tucked away in attics and scrapbooks. They are now barcodes on our phones.

By the numbers: 98% of NFL fans used mobile tickets during preseason games this summer, according to the league. That's up from 67% in 2019.

  • 67% of transactions on ticket marketplace SeatGeek in 2021 have been made on mobile, per the company. That's up from 7% in 2012.
  • Of note: SeatGeek's numbers represent the percentage of purchases made, not the percentage of people who used their phones to scan into events, which is likely much higher.

The state of play: 85% of Americans own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011, so this shift was inevitable. The pandemic only sped up the process, with most leagues going mobile-only to limit physical contact.

The big picture: The benefits of digital tickets for fans range from convenience (no printer required, easy to share with friends) to security (more fraud protection). For leagues, it comes down to one thing: data.

  • "Rather than knowing the one person out of four who bought the tickets, they now know everyone who uses the tickets," Sports Business Journal's Ben Fischer tells me.
  • Knowing who is in a seat, and being able to communicate with them before, during and after the game is hugely valuable. It could also lead to more in-game transactions (i.e. ordering food with your ticket).
  • Thanks in part to ticket data, the NFL now has 120 million names in its centralized customer database, Fischer reports (subscription).

Between the lines: Amid this mobile migration, procuring a physical ticket can be challenging. That's a threat to the world of collectible tickets — but collectors have gotten creative, hoping to keep their hobby alive.

  • "People are getting tickets by pretending their phones are broken," one collector told The Athletic (subscription).
  • A used ticket from Kobe Bryant's final NBA game sold in May for over $40,000 at Goldin Auctions.

Food for thought ... Could digital tickets eventually become NFTs (non-fungible tokens)? What if, as a ticket holder, you got access to exclusive highlights from that game that you could collect or sell?

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Nov 5, 2021 - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Digital gifts could win the holidays

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The trend toward digital gifts could accelerate this holidays with supply-chain-related shortages of some tech goods leading to shipping delays and product scarcity.

Why it matters: Digital purchases of game downloads or App Store credits are quick and easy, so those who try it may never go back to physical gifts.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

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