The ingredients of digital success

It’s not about technology or money

With the pandemic-induced step-changes in digital offer, this ArtsProfessional article looks into the ingredients of arts organisations’ success with digital. Concluding that going digital isn’t about technology or money, it suggests these key ingredients:

  • Being curious and unafraid of change
  • Having a deep understanding of the organisation’s purpose
  • Thinking about the audience experience first rather than assuming digital is the answer
  • Collaborative team efforts lead to the best digital activity
  • Acknowledging gaps in knowledge or capacity in the organisation and filling them with expert support
  • Leadership literacy
Image: Samantha Borges on Unsplash

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Did it take a crisis to make better content?

Insights from Tate and the V&A

The digital directors of Tate and the Victoria & Albert Museum discussed digital content in an excellent session of the MuseumNext Digital Summit 2021. They offered insights into how their organisations work on content and the challenges created by the pandemic.

I found the following considerations particularly interesting:

  • Think about why people are engaging.
    This has important implications for deciding whether and how digital can deliver this and the suitable formats for it. In public programmes people want a learning experience but also a social experience – for example, in physical life going to a talk with a friend is about the talk as well as spending time with the friend.

  • Digital audiences want content when it suits them, not when it suits you.
    While the strength of physical events or exhibitions (or a live streamed event) is the call-to-action they provide by being on a specific date/time, the benefit of digital is that you can have it on demand and thereby widen the audience. And while live event (real live or live streamed) offer the benefit of the additional social experience, even big live streaming events with high production values that large organisations such as Tate (with sponsor support) can deliver, had more visits on demand than live.

  • Digital media works best when you use it to do things that you can’t do in physical spaces.
    The V&A, for example, found that ASMR (Auto Sensory Meridian Response – when hearing a sound makes people feel a sensation) works well. They developed videos of conservation activities with high resolution sound recording, which would be hard to offer in a physical space.

  • Be very clear of your purpose and mission as your north star.
    Think about how digital can bring this mission to life in its own way – not replicating the gallery experience or competing with it, but as a different encounter or layer.

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Is digital replacing the physical?

Cinemas show that it is not a zero sum game

Is digital replacing the physical – that’s the hotly debated question. In some instances it might make sense, but the digital and physical still co-exist. Encouragingly a look at cinemas shows that it is not a zero sum game (Harvard Business Review). Digital appears to attract new audiences and, provided the physical experience is distinctive, audiences for the live experience remain. For me, this underlines how important it remains to purposefully look after and invest in the physical visitor experience (post-lockdowns). 

Image: Krists Luhaers on Unsplash

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

A bold strategic move

Ben Uri Gallery and Museum transforms to “a fully virtual museum with a physical presence”

The Ben Uri Gallery and Museum is a small museum in London that “celebrates, researches and records the rich Jewish and immigrant experience in the visual arts since 1900”. It made a bold strategic move and amid financial pressures decided that transforming its operational model to a fully virtual museum with a physical presence is the way forward to being a sustainable organisation and delivering its mission. And adding another bold move, it funds the transformation by deaccessioning some of its collection. In the first 3 months after the soft-launch of engagement numbers have exceeded budgets and expectations, so they seem to be well on track despite (because of?) the difficult pandemic times in the UK. Chair David Glasser explains the move in a video and in an ArtsProfessional article

Interested in more stories like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

New report: Digital Culture 2019

New study by Nesta and Arts Council England.

Digital Culture 2019 is a new report on the impact and use of technology in the arts and culture sector, from Arts Council England and Nesta. While focused on England, it offers some interesting insights as well as trends over 2013-2019.

This finding caught my eye: “Digital technology is not having a greater positive impact on audience development objectives than in previous years, and the impact of digital on reaching international audiences has fallen from 33 per cent of organisations reporting major impact in 2013 to 28 per cent in 2019.

A long read for the weekend or browse the highlights; there are also fact sheets per art form available to download: Digital Culture 2019