So Many Niches, So Little Money

A while back I noted an article that discussed the fact that while newspaper circulation is down on the whole, ethnic newspaper circulation is experiencing growth.

According to another recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the same is true of magazines and journals. Magazines focussed on to very narrow audiences, (people trying to get pregnant, people who like hybrid cars and living like tycoon Donald Trump are among those mentioned), are beginning to appear more and more often.

As I mentioned in a number of earlier entries, this type of thing makes it very difficult for organizations with limited budgets and a mission to reach a wide portion of the audience. If people are getting their news and information solely from a few sources with limited circulations, it makes it increasingly difficult and expensive to communicate with a fairly large number of people. (Of course, it being able to promote directly to people who fancy themselves tycoons can be useful.)

This is probably one of those cases where reality runs counter to expectations. The advent of email was heralded as the beginning of the paperless revolution, instead paper consumption went up. Now where the internet might be expected to be cutting costs since you can email instead of snail mail brochures and information to patrons, it has created the expectation that one can access information specially prepared and filtered for one’s own interests and view of the world. So now those “savings” have to be employed to put your information in a thousand places instead of a handful.

Don’t you just love progress?

Blog Control

Last month I made an entry about the Seattle theatre On the Board’s use of blogs to present attendee’s reviews of the shows. I had been disappointed by the fact that an administrator from the theatre was acting as a gatekeeper and approving the entries.

I came across a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article via today that discusses the blog project in a bit more depth. I accept that they felt the post approval process was necessary to avoid language and personal attacks. I have read some internet forums where the conversation left the topic and devolved into such attacks. I have also been a member of forums where people were very civil and the worst attacks were teasing about someone’s love of Kit-kats. I think it insults the audience to assume that things are going to go badly from the outset.

I have purposely left the comments portion of this blog open for that very reason. If anyone wants to post something, good or bad, they are free to. This is not to say I don’t keep an eye on what is said and edit it. To this point, I have only removed ads for penis enhancement. I may edit derogatory language in the future, but I prefer to leave things open at all times. I believe that the power of this medium lies in the fact that someone can say something incredibly critical of someone and there is an opportunity for someone else to see it or Google to archive it before it gets deleted.

This has happened recently with the federal government before they took steps to avoid having their pages archived. Departments shifted their officially stated policy and tried to make their webpages seem like it was always that policy until someone dug up the archived copy that showed it wasn’t so.

Because it is so easy to make changes to electronically presented material, the “truth” become violatile and transient. Even if it reflects negatively on me, I think it is important that there exists an opportunity for my critics to discover what it was I deleted in anger.

My philosophy of the blogosphere notwithstanding, I did find a couple of things On the Boards is doing to be interesting. The fact they are not just letting audiences know the opportunity to blog exists, but rather are inviting specific people to review them is great. (Though they undermine their position of openness credibility by reserving the right to edit.) Despite the fact many people seem to have no problem expressing their opinion online, there are still many folks who have strong views and don’t comment. (Hint hint all ye readers of my blog.) Picking people to write gets the ball rolling and insures at least their friends will visit the site to read what they had to say.

It is no surprise what other parts of the article I found interesting–it was the sections that confirmed my vision of what blogging can bring to arts organizations.

“Because OTB performances typically run either three or four nights and daily newspapers no longer review theatrical events overnight, people who wait for a critical heads-up before deciding to buy a ticket have a single night to do so, at most two. By that time, if it’s a hot performance, tickets are gone.

Imagine for a moment that newspaper reviews were plentiful, timely and unfailingly expert. They would still be one-way streets. Critics expound. Readers moved to reply have to write the critic for a response or write the editor to see their letter in print, and by that time the performance has concluded its run.

OTB bloggers begin typing after the curtain closes, posting their reviews opening night. Readers respond and presto: OTB has a real dialogue on its hands.”

and a little further on:

“What a gift, especially if you happen to hang out with dullards. You love them, but they’re more likely to sprout wings than be able to discuss the aesthetics of Shaw on stage. Now you can kiss your dullard goodnight and log onto the intellectual action. “

I especially liked this last bit because I had never thought about it before. It isn’t world shattering and a bit humorous, but it does take the pressure off a friend/significant other who attends with an avid arts lover to provide an intelligent discourse on what they just saw. Husbands already feel they have done enough by staying awake through the ballet but to have to talk about it afterward! That is the straw that breaks the camel’s back! Now they can be judged a good spouse for tolerating a night at the ballet because there is a ready made community in which the wife can debate the finer points ad infinitum.

Of course, as an arts administrator, my goal would be to find a way for the husband to enjoy himself as well. For those who are interested in the arts but are intimidated, the blogging and discussion forums can be as valuable a resource as it is for the aficionado. People’s true identities are protected by the nicknames they assume so the novice attendee can feel comfortable asking elementary questions without fear of being identified in the lobby as the stupid one. Or they can simply lurk in order to read and learn from what other folks have to say.

Dang, I really need to get employed soon. I am just dying to start to put some of these ideas to use!

Comments anyone?

Binding of Art and Science

Some positive movements lately on the job search front kept me from posting yesterday. We will see what develops.

I came across an essay by John Eger titled “The Future of Work in the Creative Age.” It sort of added another piece to the puzzle of how to attain Richard Florida’s creative communities. In a time where outsourcing fears cause anxiety about one’s job future, Eger says the US should focus its efforts on cultivating creativity.

Many, like the Nomura Research Institute, argue that the stage is set for the advance of the “Creative Age,” a period in which America should once again thrive and prosper because of our tolerance for dissent, respect for individual enterprise, freedom of expression and recognition that innovation is the driving force for the U.S. economy, not mass production of low value goods and services.

Today, the demand for creativity has outpaced our nation’s ability to create enough workers simply to meet our needs. Seven years ago, for example, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers asked the governor of California to “declare a state of emergency” to help Hollywood find digital artists. There were people aplenty who were computer literate, they claimed, but could not draw. In the New Economy, they argued, such talents are vital to all industries dependent on the marriage of computers and telecommunications.

He goes on to mention a couple schools which are rearranging their cirriculum to integrate an arts focus. He also quotes HP CEO Carly Fiorina as saying soon pools of skilled creatives will replace tax incentives and infrastructure as the elements which entice industry to a locality.

He suggests that divorcing the arts from math and science of the last couple decades has actually been detrimental to America’s ability to compete in these areas. He points out that Einstein played violin, Galileo wrote poetry and Samuel Morse painted portraits. They may not have had the time and talent to become virtuosos in these pursuits, but the implication is that they supplemented the quality of the scientific products of these men.

Unfortunately, the subtle influence of arts upon scientific accomplishment and vice versa is one of those areas that resists precise measurement by standardized testing and other empirical measures. Only after a sustained shift in policy are we likely to realize the benefits of a more holistic education and exposure.

Which Reminded Me Of…

I was reading Adaptstration today in which Drew McManus was talking about seeing an orchestra program which was specially designed to show off the technological advantages of HDTV. It reminded me of another article I read back in February where students from MIT were dreaming up ways that technology could enhance an arts attendance experience. One of their ideas was to project a hologram of a conductor in Germany in front of an orchestra in Miami and have them make music with half the world between them.

When I originally read that article in February, it reminded me of some musings I had years before on the future of theatre. With the trend of people deciding to receive their entertainment at home, theatres would have to adapt by presenting their product across the same delivery channels. Arts on television currently doesn’t have much of an audience. However, I was thinking that an emerging holograph or virtual reality technology could provide the answer.

My wild idea was that people could choose to plug in to watch a live performance from home. However, they could not only choose to watch from an audience’s point of view, but also from the point of view of each character via a small camera mounted over the ear like a body mic. In this manner, they could experience what it was like to be up on stage in front of an audience, what it was like waiting in the wings or rushing around to enter from the other side of the stage. Some costume changes might have to be censored out depending how much they revealed.

There would be, of course, the added thrill of taking the point of view of one of the actors who about to be kissed by the celebrity sex symbol so that you feel you are being kissed yourself.

This is the advantage of live creative arts over film. Movies might be able to provide people with the point of view of being in the actual movie. But because films are shot out of order and there are long periods of inactivity for those involved, they can’t provide real time behind the scenes insights and interaction.

When I first envisioned this idea, I figured technology might make it viable by the time I was 70. However, it appears the bright minds are moving ahead faster than I gave them credit for. Be interesting to see how soon it is a reality.