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How to use YouTube to Combat Cell Phones on Coasters

Seems counter intuitive, right? How can the very thing that allows dangerous, illegal POV video to be so popular be used to stop it? Well, read on and find out:

Arguably, cell phones are one of the greatest inventions of the past century – the convenience of being on contact whenever, where ever. The freedom to upload photos and videos at any moment – including while guests are on your rides and attractions.

You don’t have to hear me tell you that cell phone filming on rides is an epidemic in our industry. It’s pushing insurance premiums higher and higher. A projectile of that density, loose at 65mph could be several injury lawsuits just waiting to happen, not to mention the bad publicity in the media.

Before the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster even opened to the public at California’s Great America this past month, guests were seen filming on the ride using cell phones. When opening day came, the second train of the day that featured general public passengers had three (3) cell phones out.

“But we already provide guests with storage options while they’re on rides!”

Sadly, that doesn’t matter. The mentality of guests today, specifically Millennials, is to not experience the ride they’re on, but to record and share the experience with all their friends. The more “Likes” on Facebook, the higher “Thumbs Up “ count on YouTube, the better.

 “But, it’s free publicity!” 

Yes, it is free publicity – telling everyone online that it’s okay to film on your rides – and risk the safety of everyone around them. It’s nothing a good marketing campaign of your own marketing team couldn’t accomplish (see #3).

So how then, does your park stop this major liability and potentially lower your insurance premiums at the same time? It’s actually a simple, three step process:

1.)  When it Comes to your Park’s Policies, “Grow a Pair”

Stark as it is, it needs to be said. For so many years, park guests have received warnings about what NOT to do at a park. They’ve received so many that they’ve become complacent to them. A good comparison would be to think about the last time you actually picked up a safety card in an airplane and read it. That’s the same mentality going on with your younger guests.

Also to consider – Millennials expect warnings. They’re willing to go right up to the warning and only back down when confronted. This is a generation where “everybody’s a winner,” and there’s little to no consequences to their actions. If your sign says “anyone caught with a camera on a ride will be removed from the park” then DO IT. (While deleting or confiscating the offending device.) The only way to change guests’ behavior is to show them that you mean business.

For example, Six Flags New England has a single warning sign at every high profile attraction. It reads, “Any cell phone or filming on this ride will result in immediate ejection from the park, no refunds and a 5 year ban from the park.” That gets people’s attention. In addition, all of their ride auto spiels also include a warning: “Anyone using a cell phone or MP3 payer to record while on the ride is subject to immediate dismissal from the park by Six Flags Security.”

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk goes a step further. Ride attendants actively monitor the lift hill of the Giant Dipper roller coaster via security video. If a cell phone or other recording device is seen, the ride is immediately stopped and will not start again until the offending device is put away. If the device re-appears after the lift, security is called to wait at the station, takes away any tickets or passes the guest may have and is escorted immediately off park property.

Now that you’ve taken the first steps to stem the flow of content at the source, it’s time to move onto where the content lives…online.

2.)  Actively monitor and police social media, especially YouTube.

This should go without saying, especially if you read my last post – but if you don’t watch your social media channels continuously, you’re in for a shock…

What’s your signature ride at your park? Go ahead and search it on YouTube, I’ll wait…

Okay, you’re back? Great – how many results came up? Each one of those videos are potential lawsuits from injured guests, who will blame you for allowing people to film on rides. The real scary part – these are only the videos that were tagged properly on YouTube – many more could potentially exist without proper tagging or incorrect spellings. (Not to mention Facebook videos as well.)

Remember, this is your property people are filming on. You are well within your rights as a park to have videos on YouTube flagged or taken down for safety, security or other reasons.

Use the ban as an opportunity. In the complaint, be sure to add a link to an authorized POV (point of view) video that came from the park, with a friendly reminder to not film on rides.

Some park-centric websites have gone so far as to monetize videos filmed at parks . Yes, you heard me correctly – they were filming commercially – and they paid none of your fees, had no insurance coverage AND you didn’t even know they were there. You wouldn’t allow a film crew to just wander around the park without your spokesperson, so why would you allow this?

3.)  Film (and share liberally) professional, on-ride video that you created or authorized.

Gone are the days of needing a film crew, jibs, cranes and more when it comes to making high quality video. A simple GoPro Hero with accompanying mounts will run your department about $400-$450 after tax. That’s a small price to pay to avoid millions in lawsuits.

Mount the camera on either the handlebars of the front car, or via the suction cup mount to a flat, non-porous surface. Duct tape can be used to stabilize the rig, but it’s not necessary in many cases. Never use any footage that could come across as shaky, or handheld. You’ll run the risk of having it look too much like a cell phone video; guests will be only encouraged to film on their own.

Now that you have authorized POV, post your video everywhere – not just on YouTube. Link to it via your other social media outlets – have it available for download for free (just be sure you include your personal watermark to show it’s really from the park). Have a QR code posted near the ride exit, so guests can scan it and receive a link to the video. It takes the work (and risk) of filming on a ride out of the hands of the guests – it’s already been done for them!

Combine that with active monitoring and better training for ride attendants, and you’ll see a significant decrease in after the ride and receive it on their phone. Take all the work out of guests filming and put it on yourself – you will see results quickly and hopefully, watch your insurance premiums decrease as well.

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®

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4 responses

  1. These are all very valid points. I think the parks should enforce their rules and let people know they mean business. However, I do think that constantly stopping rides on a lift hill is taking it too far. If a security camera picks up somebody filming during the ride, have a security officer waiting for them when they disembark and escort them out of the park. I think I agree with #3 the most. In this digital age, all parks should provide high-quality POV video of their most popular rides and market the heck out of it. Stop leaving it in the hands of amateurs and enthusiasts. Since it has nothing but an upside, I can only imagine that they don’t do this because their marketing/PR people are old school and haven’t kept up with the social media trends. Basically, they don’t have the right people for the job.

    June 11, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    • I WOULD have agreed with you completely, but after my recent trip to Fiesta Texas, I can report back that they GET it down there. There’s HQ pov via QR code on the entrance signage, more codes to scan so you can “check in” on the ride.

      Now, will other parks get on the social media bandwagon? One can only hope so. It’s not going away anytime soon, that’s for sure…

      June 13, 2013 at 8:48 pm

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