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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.


How This Began (II)

June 15, 2009

As I come to the conclusion of this project, I would like to summarize what I have learned and try to take the temporal through-line of the blog and condense the ideas into important arguments that support my case. This in no way replaces the experience of viewing the blog everyday, but I hope this will help to clarify my position, as it has been spread out over many months of writing.
Here again is my thesis statement.

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. Patrons will demand more technological personal interaction and meaningful content in their communication with theaters. Organizations must act now to adopt polices that integrate internet social networking strategies or risk being left unable to communicate with their audiences.

How This Began (I)

June 15, 2009

When I began this thesis project I had some strong feelings about the use of social networking by arts organizations. I believed that the use of this technology would become incredibly important to organizations as our world became more interconnected digitally. I also believed that this digital revolution would speed the erosion of traditional print media. I had formed these opinions by observing what was happening within the arts community and also by watching trends that were forming in the digital world. So strong were these beliefs, in fact, that I decided I must explore this topic in depth, so that I might be on the forefront of this digital divide. My research has proven, not only that my initial views were correct, but it also lead to a number of other discoveries.

For this thesis, I decided on one fundamental principle upfront: that in order to understand social networking, I must experience it first hand. Hence, you have been reading it as a blog. I felt it would be the height of hypocrisy for me to say how important social networking is, and how I think it will change the way we communicate, and then hand in a printed-paper to my advisor. I also felt that there was no better way to understand this new way of communicating, than by doing it. By expressing my thesis in this way, I have been faced with both challenges and opportunities. The ability for me to share articles, interviews and my own writing everyday, as they occur has been a challenge and a joy. Those who have followed and read this blog over these four months have been able to explore this topic with me, and in a way they never could by reading a paper.  Even those that have only been able to look in from time to time have still gotten a glimpse into the process that no one would ever get to see, if this hadn’t been a blog. Readers have been able to see my opinions develop, and also have had the opportunity to participate in the project itself. Although I wish there would have been more outside participation and comments, I would like to thank all of you who did participate and comment.


June 14, 2009

I have written a great deal in this blog about “real” communication and “real” dialogue, and it has been pointed out to me that perhaps I may need to go into a bit more detail about what I mean when I use these terms.

Some of my quotes in question are;

“People who engage through social media want a real conversation, and if an organization wants to talk to them that way there has to be real dialogue.”

“You have to be real, because if you are not, no one will listen.”

“People need meaningful interaction.”

So what do I mean by “real and “meaningful”?

I mean that there must be a conversation. A conversation between people. Just because organizations and their constituents are separated by a digital divide does not mean that the conversation can be any less authentic than if it were face to face. I see many organizations that are making the mistake of not engaging as fully with people over social media as they would in person. Social media can only be a successful tool if the person you are trying to engage knows you are there and care about the dialogue. If you are inauthentic, or show little interest in the conversation, it is just as bad as if you were sitting having coffee with them and staring off into space. Perhaps even worse, because maybe you could fake listening in person, but online it becomes very evident if you are not truly engaging. So by “real” I mean personal. Social networking is personal and the conversation has to be an authentic two way dialogue.

Up 83%

June 14, 2009

Report: Social networking up 83 percent for U.S.

June 3, 2009 7:31 AM PDT
by Lance Whitney
The explosion in social networking may be even greater than imagined. The time that people in the U.S. spend on social network sites is up 83 percent from a year ago, according to a report from market researcher Nielsen Online.

Facebook enjoys the top spot among social networks, with people having spent a total of 13.9 billion minutes on the service in April of this year, 700 percent more than in April 2008, Nielsen said. Minutes spent on Twitter soared a whopping 3,712 percent to almost 300 million, versus around 7.8 million from the same month a year ago.

Former top dog MySpace watched its usage drop nearly one-third to around 4.9 billion minutes, from 7.2 billion in April 2008. MySpace still scored the number one spot for online video among the top 10, thanks to its users streaming more than 120 million videos from the site for April of this year.
“We have seen some major growth in Facebook during the past year, and a subsequent decline in MySpace,” Jon Gibs, Nielsen’s vice president for online media and agency insights, said in a statement. “Twitter has come on the scene in an explosive way perhaps changing the outlook for the entire space.”

But the report also offered a cautionary note: the social networking user can be fickle, quickly bouncing from one service to another. “Remember Friendster? Remember when MySpace was an unbeatable force? Neither Facebook nor Twitter are immune,” said Gibs. “Consumers have shown that they are willing to pick up their networks and move them to another platform, seemingly at a moment’s notice.”…

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Newspapers-0, Arts Organizations-1?

June 13, 2009

In my post the Interview with the Editor I had the opportunity to interview an editor from a large newspaper here in Chicago. Many of the answers to questions struck me as very poignant for the times we live in, but one in particular stood out.

“What are the biggest challenges facing the Newspaper industry?

The continued erosion of the traditional advertising base — classifieds, autos and builders — is hastening the industry’s decline, but the major revenue problem for newspapers was established the moment media started giving away the product for free. Now the expectation is that information should be free.”

Two parts of this answer are striking and seem connected.

Firstly, that “the continued erosion of the traditional advertising base — classifieds, autos and builders — is hastening the industry’s decline.”

This is just more proof that the newspaper as a vehicle for advertising is becoming less useful. Not even old standbys like classifieds can help fund them anymore. As newspapers decline, we must find new avenues of communication to our audience, and one new avenue is very clear; the Internet. Which leads to the second statement.

“Now the expectation is that information should be free.”

This is one of the driving forces that propels Social Media and this is the great opportunity that arts organizations have at this time. While the idea of free content becomes debilitating for the traditional newspaper model – for non-profit organizations it makes complete sense. This is an extension of what organizations do, they create this content to enrich the audiences experience, not profit by it. We in the arts are the unwitting beneficiaries of this new media expectation. Content must be free, and arts organizations are in a unique position to deliver.

Broadway and Social Media

June 12, 2009

Broadway embraces web community

Twitter, social networking all aid marketing push



Posted: Fri., May 22, 2009

For Broadway shows, it’s starting to look like Twitter is the new black.

“Next to Normal” is posting 140-character missives from its characters; “Billy Elliot” is accepting questions to be posed to the show’s creatives, incorporated into online video segs; “Rock of Ages” is using feeds to dispense ’80s fun facts.

Heck, “Shrek the Musical” has even launched its own green-tinted social network site, Shrekster.

With social networks such as Facebook and MySpace seemingly well past the pop-culture tipping point, Broadway producers and marketers — like anyone else with a product to advertise — are getting in on the game.

“We’re in the middle of a monster transition in how shows are marketed,” says Damian Bazadona, prexy of tech-savvy marketing org Situation Interactive, which works on both “Normal” and “Billy,” among other shows.

It’s not enough these days for a legit production to have a website. It also needs profiles on multiple social networks — from mainstream Facebook to special-interest sites like Latino-based (for “In the Heights”) — and a constant stream of updates on Twitter.

“We try to make a distinct voice for a show through the social networks,” says Jim Glaub, creative director of marketer Art Meets Commerce, which works on “Rock of Ages.”

Sending out updates to a production’s fans on sites such as Facebook, marketers say, reps a good way to reach not just those fans, but everyone they’ve friended.

“It’s the way that we’re connecting to third-party people we wouldn’t be able to reach,” says Sara Fitzpatrick, director of interactive at SpotCo, the Broadway ad agency that developed the interactive components for “Shrek” and “Heights.”

“Billy” funnels consumer feedback from multiple online platforms to the site, where behind-the-scenes interviews (similarly distributed across several platforms) are aggregated.

As the profile of Twitter grows, so does its prominence in ad campaigns. Glaub, for instance, says they’re experimenting with ads that drive people to Twitter rather than to a show’s web domain.

“Normal,” with the help of book writer Brian Yorkey, is posting tweets that will follow the plotline of the tuner over five weeks (while refraining from spoiling the big reveal that comes about halfway through the first act).

The tweet-narrative has exploded in popularity, surpassing 70,000 followers. (That’s a big number; “Rock of Ages,” for instance, has around 2,600.)…

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