Feed Me!

Apropos the end of yesterday’s post, I came across an article on the web that discussed RSS feeds which is another sign of how technology is allowing people to narrow down how much of the world to which they are exposed. You may be seeing this option popping up on blogs and websites you frequent. Essentially what the feed does is send story headlines and notifies you of changes to a website.

The technology is still in its beginning steps though the article terms it as the next killer app that will change the way business is done on the web. Like the start of web browsing, you have to download viewing software though Microsoft is apparently going to integrate a viewer in its next operating system. It also feeds you news and information without ads but that is sure to change as well as the technology becomes the new channel through which people view their world (and it ain’t cheap to transmit all this feed.)

Because it is in the beginning stages, there isn’t any uniformity to the feeds. Some may be sparse text headlines with links back to a website for more information, others might give you a multimedia blast with the entire text of an article.

What does strike me though is that this is another low cost opportunity for arts organizations to get information out to audiences and develop relationships with specific people by providing information tailored specifically to their interests. You can use this format to send information about upcoming seasons, warn people about a show that is about to sell out, or even remind people they purchased tickets for that evening when they turn their computer on in the morning. Given that people are subscribing less and waiting until the last moment to purchase tickets, organizations may also end up reminding people to buy tickets at all.

Certainly this might be a solution to a lot of the problems faced by the Mondavi Center in the article I cited yesterday about shows being forgotten and lack of good seats. Favored patrons be they students, subscribers or donors could have their own special feed with advance offerings and special deals.

I will be watching this technology to see how it develops and what implications it might have for the arts.

You Are Paying For It After All

I was reading an article recently in the California Aggie that spoke of the trouble attracting UC Davis students to the Mondavi Center (article no longer available). Since student fees underwrite the Center’s programs, the administration would like to see more students attending. Only 13% of students attend performances that include people like Michael Moore, Bill Clinton, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. When dance and theatre department shows are in the spaces, attendance jumps to 50% (though ticket prices drop).

Granted, students may be required to see the departmental shows which may boost attendance. That is about the only element besides price I could see given reasons like lack of incentive and interest and difficulty securing good seats. Certainly the same could be said of the department shows.

This is a problem I have been faced with when working at universities and a question people ask if I have a solution to. I don’t really have a solution at all outside of the usual channels of student newspapers, etc. Given how much people use email and instant messaging devices, that would certainly be a direction to explore. It would just be a matter of finding an effective opportunity to get students to provide their addresses so you can send updates. How to make sure your messages don’t get ignored like so much spam is another thing altogether.

Given my philosophy of making it easy for people to make a decision to attend, I was attracted to the Mondavi Center’s tactic of putting daily ads in the student paper that only had the student prices listed rather than a half page ad with all the pricing listed which ran only once. Apparently it has begun to pay off for them as student ticket purchases for the remaining 50 shows of the season (out of a season of about 120 events) has risen to 17.2%.

The Center would also like their audience to reflect the racial diversity of their constituency base, but haven’t found as promising an answer to that as they have with their students.

It strikes me that more and more in the future appeals will be made to audience segments rather than audiences in general. The very fact that people can find programs pitched directly to their interests on the myriad cable channels means people’s vision is becoming increasingly tunneled.

I recently saw a program that pointed out that in the 1970s, a prime time program on one of the 3 available networks was ranked around 40 in the Nielsens and had something in the neighborhood of 17% of the viewers. Today shows like Survivor which are heralded as shows everyone is watching are actually only attracting 17% of the viewers because of all the choices available. The failures of yesteryear are counted as the blockbuster successes of today.

Usually, arts organizations can’t even consider advertising on TV and that is even more of an impediment today if you have to consider that one part of your demographic predominantly watches the Home and Garden channel, another A&E, another the History Channel, Discovery, TLC, etc.

The fact they are catered to changes people’s expectations slowly in other areas as well. They may seek newspapers, social groups, radio stations, etc that cater specifically to them rather than ones that are generally aligned with their interests. Trying to reach people is going to become increasingly difficult as time goes on I believe.

I will try to find some research that supports or refutes this idea, but until then. Anyone have any comments or thoughts?

Arts In An Age of Technology

Today I have added the text of my speech on Arts in an Age of Technology to my files section. The speech essentially covers how arts organizations need to deal with the growing expectations that technology brings.

The speech is one I gave during my visit to Wayne State University but is bereft of the little notes I had included to remind me to share an anecdote or additional examples regarding applications of my points. Though I was already pretty much speaking on the topic and using the text as a guide rather than reading it, the ad libbed anecdotes actually added about a half hour to my speech.

Readers of my blog (if there are any of you) will recognize quite a bit of material toward the end from earlier blog entries. The beginning is material I have been pondering for a couple years and have actually spoken on before. It was rather exciting to be speaking on ideas I had only just formulated a handful of days before.

Hopefully the inclusion of this speech in the Practical Applications section is a precursor of many other articles and ideas which will appear there over time (presumably not all originating with me).

The Most Commanding Day of the Year

Today always reminds me of my grandmother who would announce that March 4th (forth) was the most commanding day of the year. It always seemed to me to be a day ripe to be made into a holiday. Two months after the new year, it would be a good day to reaffirm your dedication to resolutions.

I spent the better part of the day refining thank you letters to the search committee at Wayne State. Taking the time to send a letter to each one of them was practicing a bit of what I preached all week. Unfortunately, I also boasted that I wrote good thank you letters while there so I had an obligation to write particularly well. It wasn’t difficult for the most part since I was grateful to different people for different things. However, I hate to be derivative of myself in my letters so I endeavored to talk about my abilities in different ways.

Now that I have returned from my interviewing, it is about time to complete this experiment in reflecting upon my experience as I had suggested in my Feb 24 entry and go back to my stated purpose of finding practical applications to theories. (Another reason to look for a new blog host–this one doesn’t have the tools to allow me to link to earlier entries)

I was happy to see an article on the Washington Post website talking about the value of reflectively blogging about your performing experience. In this case, it is about a musician who is travelling and blogging about his impressions and experience. The article mentions many of the same concerns I expressed in my entry about an organization’s rightful concern about what uncensored, unguided thoughts an employee is conveying in his blog. The entire process seems to be a success and rather pleasing to all parties involved.

Although the blogging musician, Sam Bergman, didn’t know if his efforts would be valuable to audience members, another Arts Journal blogger, Drew McManus, felt differently and invited people to give their reaction.

Since I essentially argued exactly all of this during my visit to Detroit, I really have to restrain myself from forwarding these articles to them with a big “SEE, I’M NOT CRAZY!!!!” in the subject line of an email.

Tomorrow, perhaps I will place the text of the class I taught in my good ideas section. It integrates a great deal of what I posted in my earlier entries, but also talks about things I have been mulling over for a long time.