92nd Street Y Goes Global with Success of Virtual Events
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — This iconic New York cultural institution has amassed a worldwide following after making the digital pivot.
The 92nd Street Y drew 5 million viewers in all 50 states plus 200 countries for its various online programs in the last year. In a typical pre-pandemic year, about 300,000 people would walk through its Upper East Side doors.
“The trick was to increase interactivity to make sure that people felt that the person that they were watching was in some way responding to them,” said Seth Pinsky, CEO of 92nd Street Y. “The way I like to describe it is that we went from competing with YouTube with videos that talked ‘to’ our audience to eventually finding our own version of these videos by creating programming that spoke ‘with’ our audience and that really was, I think, the key to our success.”
On the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, Pinsky told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso 92Y tried new ways of doing virtual programs until they discovered how to differentiate themselves from the steep competition.
“I don’t think that every production necessarily has to be top top quality,” he said. “I think really it’s the combination of a level of quality that’s high enough that it’s not distracting to people, but again, it’s those extra intangible elements like the creation of community that when added to that are what I think pull audiences in, and over time, keep them.”
The 92nd Street Y has a full slate of original programs, classes and performances. Some of them are now exclusively virtual for their global audience even though the center in Manhattan is back open after being shut down during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The idea of creating content and just giving it away was something that over the long-run, we realized, wouldn’t be sustainable. And so, in some cases, we started to put our programming behind a paywall, and, amazingly, what we found was that our audience was willing to pay for the content,” said Pinsky.
He told WCBS 880 that roughly 60 percent of the 92nd Street Y’s new paying virtual audience members are from outside the New York Metropolitan Area and live in all parts of the world.
“Suddenly we realized that we were no longer just a New York institution, we were truly a global institution,” Pinsky said.
See how to make virtual events better and engage new customers through quality digital content on the Small Business Spotlight video above.