I had a look at map and event economics about 20 years ago and suspect the fundamentals haven't changed - major national carnivals are generally profitable, low-level events (especially park-street events where costs are very low) are profitable, but the events in between struggle.
I don't actually think this should be a major problem - I think we need to be prepared to use profitable events to cross-subsidise less profitable (but important) ones. Of course it's easier to think in this way when you're running an event program as a single entity (as in the ACT) rather than it being split amongst a number of clubs.
I'd draw a cricket analogy, with national carnivals being the Tests and local events the 20-20. Events like State Series and State Championships in that context are the Sheffield Shield equivalent - not a money-maker in their own right, but critically important as a pathway to the biggest events, among other things.
If anything, we've seen the contrast between mid-range events and others grow in recent years. Across Australia, the trend is for strong growth in national carnivals (the last four Australian Championships have had attendances anything from 5% to 40% higher than the previous one held in the same state), and in whatever types of events provide participation opportunities close to where people are, but State Series/OY/State League events are struggling to maintain ground all over Australia.
As a somewhat ghostly chair of the "Bush-O" group, I look at the trends and wonder what will become of the State series with two essentially urban park events in it next year. It might be worth travelling from Melbourne to Bendigo for a State Series on a good bush map, but its a hard sell to travel to Melbourne for a run around a park with no contours. Here is a vision for the future- one Melbourne bush fixture and one central Victorian bush fixture. Come together for Championships. Eventually one bush club in Melbourne, that being MFR as all the others amalgamate with it under demographic pressure and recruitment via park events rather than bush. I would welcome anyone deciding to oust me from the bush chair position on the basis of these heretical views. I would only plead in my defence that I am not advocating this, just seeing a vision of the future.
State Series Bush Orienteering at Keysborough in 2017 is a relaity...
Perhaps it is time to seriously look at entry fees. Orienteering entry is very cheap. $10 for a local event and $15 or $20 for a state series event is small beer compared to the entry fee for most of the large fun runs, which are generally over $50 and no map.
I think the SS has become far less attractive over the last couple of years. There was a time when you could look forward to at least 12 quality events in the bush, plus a couple of badge events and the championships. Now you are lucky to get 10 in total, including the middle and long championships.
Street O and park o attract additional people, but if the sport is to grow it needs to get them to also do bush o.
What makes a quality event Chris? I suspect there are more bush events on the fixture than 30 years ago. Might check that.