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The Fundamental Shift

June 16, 2009

For arts organizations, there will be a fundamental shift in the next 5 years. Traditional newspaper advertising and direct mail marketing that is used as the primary vehicle for ticket sales will cease to exist as we know it.

For years, arts organizations have relied on several communications vehicles to sell tickets and to bring audiences in the doors. There are two communication tactics that have become almost second nature: direct-mail marketing and newspaper advertising. These two methods have become ubiquitous because they have worked so well for many years. This all changed when the internet came to be available for the general public. As the internet grew in popularity two major shifts happened. One, newspaper content that was available only in print, at a cost to the reader, became available online, free of charge. Two, people began to expect to be talked to (marketed to) differently online.

First, newspapers traditionally were built on a system of support that included people purchasing the content and advertisers paying for ads. As content began to appear for free online, people started to change their habits of how they encountered the news. People no longer needed the daily paper to get their news, and thus stopped buying papers. The reduced circulation numbers then had an effect on the advertisers, who suddenly were not able to reach as large a segment of their target market as they once did, and so they stopped buying expensive ads. These factors helped lead newspapers to where they are today, with the lowest circulation in years and in many cases facing bankruptcy.

Making this situation harder for the papers is that when they tried to convert print advertising to the web they quickly found it didn’t translate. People on the internet rejected one-way communication because they expected to interact on the internet.
The internet is an entirely different form of communication, and what quickly became apparent was that it operated under a different set of rules. Unlike a newspaper where the readers’ only choice is to turn a page, the internet allows people to interact in many ways. Newspapers are static and the internet is dynamic. Especially now that social media is commonplace internet users respond to something instantly and interact with hundreds of people, organizations and corporations. If you see an article you like, not only can you email it to a friend, you can post a comment to its author, or send a link to a million people in the twitterverse, with a touch of a button. This ability to respond, like we do in a personal conversation, is what changes the dynamics of marketing dramatically.

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