April 14th, 2011

So what is the value of Snooki? Apparently, a lot, even more than a Nobel Laureate in fact. The Times gives us an insight into snookinomics–or how much that pint-sized, orange-tinted, soco-drinking, fist-pumping, free-loving reality superstar is worth. This is simple economics: supply and demand.

So how could Snooki be “worth” more than a Nobel Prize-winner?

The discrepancy has nothing to do with their respective “intrinsic” values to society, however you might quantify those. Rather, it’s all about market forces. There is high demand for Snooki, and other reality-TV celebrities, because the venues that host her find that she provides a very handsome return on their investment.

Recently Snooki charged Rutgers, the state university of (where else) Jersey, $32,000 to talk to the students. Not bad for someone who never completed college. And that exceeds the amount Nobel laureate Toni Morrison received.

So what was the value of Snooki’s gig at Rutgers?

On blogs specifically, I found that the coverage was 75 percent neutral, 10 percent positive and 15 percent negative in tone toward the event (this is programmatic sentiment analysis so there is some margin for error, missed sarcasm, etc.). This breakdown is fairly typical, most mentions of any news story are simple pass-alongs, though often presented with a silent smirk that’s hard to quantify, with no opinion expressed outright. The exposure from those neutral mentions contributes a considerable amount of publicity value to the event despite the negative coverage. Still, I’m discounting substantially for potshot mentions in my valuation here…

Mainstream media

14 mentions in daily newspapers, including the Toronto Star and Los Angeles Times. Also 1,161 mentions on News Web sites, 297 mentions on broadcast television including Conan and Chelsea Lately.

Mainstream news publicity value: $174,806

Blogs & Twitter

7,180 people commented on, linked to, Liked, bookmarked or voted for 2,098 blog posts

Blog publicity value: $136,017

15,169 tweets (including one very widely retweeted one from @time) received by a total of 26.9 million followers

Twitter publicity value: $35,012

Total Publicity Value: $345,835

That’s a spicy meatball!

So how much revenue does a Snooki-attended event at LAX in Las Vegas generate?

TABLE SERVICE Using a conservative estimate, let’s say that on a non-Snooki night, 58 of 60 tables sell for $1,000, and two tables for $5,000. So on Snooki’s night, the club gets, at minimum, an extra ($1,000 x 58) + ($5,000 x 2) = $68,000 in table service.

COVER CHARGES LAX can expect 1,600 to 1,800 patrons on a typical Saturday night in March. With a buzzworthy celebrity, attendance goes up to 1,900 to 2,200 customers, Mr. Cordova estimates.

Guests who purchase tables don’t pay a cover charge. With 60 tables with 10 people each, 600 people wouldn’t pay covers. That means the remaining guests, called G.A. for “general admission,” number about 1,100 on a noncelebrity night, and 1,450 on a celebrity night.

The entrance fee is $20 for women and $30 for men. Not everyone pays: bouncers let many in free. On a noncelebrity night, about 60 percent of G.A.’s pay the cover. On a celebrity night, when demand is higher, Mr. Cordova estimates that 80 percent pay.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that an even share of men and women attend and are allowed in free. So for a noncelebrity night, the club gets $16,500 in cover charges (60 percent of 550 men paying $30, plus 60 percent of 550 women paying $20).

And on a celebrity night, the club gets $29,000 in cover charges (80 percent of 725 men paying $30, plus 80 percent of 725 women paying $20).

So the total in extra cover charges is $12,500.

BAR SERVICE G.A.’s buy drinks at the bar. Let’s assume that the average Las Vegas clubber buys four drinks, at about $12 each. That’s a bar tab of $48.

So on a noncelebrity night, with 1,100 guests who haven’t bought tables, that would total $52,800 (1,100 x $48).

On a celebrity night, with 2,050 non-table-buyers, bar service totals $98,400 (2,050 x $48).

So the additional, Snooki-derived bar revenues would be $45,600.

MEDIA EXPOSURE The previous figures are tallied the same night that Snooki slinks down LAX’s center staircase. But the real return comes later, when patrons upload photos with Snooki onto Facebook, or when a portrait of her partying at LAX runs in UsWeekly.

And to ensure maximum exposure for the clubs, stars like Snooki usually sign an agreement that prevents them from partying at any nearby clubs, said Lori Levine, founder of Flying Television, a celebrity booking firm.

According to Cision, a company that tracks media coverage, the Snooki appearance generated 95 mentions in the mainstream media, plus hundreds of mentions on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. The company estimated the publicity value at $133,306.

THE VERDICT By this rough accounting, Snooki’s $25,000 fee brought in an additional $259,406 in revenue for LAX.

Snooki comes in a small package, but she packs a huge punch.