Stuff You Can Use: Google Analytics

Analyzing Effort Effectiveness
As a logical follow up to yesterdays post about how we have been communicating with our constituencies, I wanted to mention one way we are trying to track effectiveness. I recently started using Google Analytics to get a better sense of the traffic on our website. The service is free, probably because Google is already collecting the information and all you are doing is asking them to share what they collect from the pages you mark with your unique code.

I tested it out on my blog for a couple months before applying it to my web pages at work. As I noted, you have to add a short bit of code to each web page that you want it to track. Since the blog has fewer distinct pages on it, I felt it was a better use of effort to monitor the viability there. The data is much more organized and easier to read than when using programs like Awstats. Analytics also theoretically weeds out visits from search engine spiders and other automatic processes so the numbers you see are more likely to represent real people.

Sooo Much Information
The service provides some interesting information. You can see what pages people visited, how often they visited, how they got to your page (direct address, search engine, referred by another web page), how long they stayed, from where they were visiting and what search terms brought them to your site. You can also see how often someone from an IP address returned to your page and how many new visitors you had. The default setting is to show you the visits over a month’s time but you can expand that to a longer period or focus in on just one day. If you are interested, you can even learn what sort of operating systems, monitor settings, browsers and Flash versions your visitors are using. If a lot of people are using older computers, you may want to reconsider optimizing your web pages for viewing on monitors with higher resolutions. As I see from the report, there are a couple people viewing our web pages on iPhones.

I Think They Like Us!
One of the things I have discovered using Google Analytics on our work pages is that people seem to read and act on the emails we send out. The number of visitors to our web page shot up a great deal the day we sent out our last email and remained higher for a few days after. The visits to the event we profiled also increased as you might imagine, but we also saw a bump in visits to the pages for later events. We also saw an increase in ticket sales though that is a separate system from what Google tracks for us.

Who is Watching Me?
There is an option to create your own custom reports from the information provided. Despite all the information available, there are a couple weaknesses with the data you collect. With my blog I noticed that often when I visited from my home computer, my visits wouldn’t register. However, there did appear to be visits from the nearby Air Force base in the same number and duration of my visits. My theory is that because cable modems shift traffic around to nodes with less traffic, sometimes my visits registered as my neighborhood, sometimes I was apparently on an air force base. To bolster my theory, on January 12 both my blog and work website registered two hits from the Air Force base. When checked Network Location on my blog report, there were a bunch of links from the local internet server. The Network Location report on my work site shows “DoD Network Information Center.” So I am pretty sure the Air Force isn’t monitoring my blog on a daily basis. (Or at least they are doing a better job covering their tracks.)

But I Wanna Know More!
The other aspect I find lacking is that the report maker is limited. I don’t know if this is just because it is a beta feature and they haven’t enabled cross referencing for everything or because the limits help protect the anonymity of the data. What I would love to do is cross reference hits on certain pages to neighborhoods. The neighborhood data might not be entirely accurate but there would still be some value in knowing certain shows were attracting interest from certain general areas.

There are definitely entire swaths of the county that are under served and granters are interested in having us reach. Because these are people who are least likely to order in advance, it is difficult to use ticket sales records to prove an event designed to appeal to them actually did. If I was able to show there was a lot of activity on the show specific page of our website from these areas, it would lend some veracity to our claims. I am hoping this capability emerges at some point.

Even though the vast majority of the Network Locations register as large providers like Time Warner, Comcast and Verizon, there is enough specific information to give you a hint at the type of people viewing your pages. In addition to the aforementioned members of the Air Force, there are a couple hits from various universities, the city, the state department of education, health care providers and insurance companies on the theatre website.

On the whole, Google Analytics’ data is both feast and famine. You learn a lot more than you did without it, but in some cases you have no idea how the data might be pertinent to your needs and activities or you can’t process the data as presented in a manner that is meaningful. This is probably actually comforting to many of us since this means the sites we visit can’t easily figure out a lot of stuff about us either. (Though I am sure there are some smart people out there for whom this data is more than sufficient to establish identities.)

Still, if you acknowledge and accept the limitations, it can be illuminating and fun to explore. I have certainly only scraped the surface. We probably haven’t been using and playing with Analytics long enough to discover its full potential. I would really love to learn how other organizations have made the data work for them.

Information You Can Use- Grants and Foundations

I don’t know if there is something in the air or just a lot of grant deadlines coming due but there were quite a few funding opportunities listed on the WESTAF website last week. I thought I would post on some of the opportunities that caught my eye. These aren’t all of them. WESTAF does good work and I don’t begrudge them their subscription fees which are pretty reasonable given the number of opportunities they list. Based on my assumption that everyone needs money and opportunities these days, it seems a moral imperative to post this information.

Google Grants
The first one is for free advertising for your non-profit from Google. It is similar to their Ad Words service though you don’t get as ready access to keywords and your ad has to be focused on your organization’s mission which is to be expected.

This is actually only one of the services they offer to non-profits. Check out the aptly named, Google for Non-profits for more information.

I have to say, I love PennPAT. They provide nice support for artists and organizations in the Mid-Atlantic States. I just wish I lived in the Mid-Atlantic states! However, no matter where you live, PennPAT will provide assistance with travel costs from anywhere in the US if you are traveling to see one of their artists perform. From the way I read the eligibility requirements, you could be living in Oregon and traveling to California to see one of their artists on tour. Or you could attend their annual showcase in Pennsylvania.

Wachovia Foundation
To receive support from these folks, you pretty much have to live in an area served by Wachovia Bank because they support non-profit organizations with which their employees volunteer. Focus is making artistic opportunities available to people with low to moderate incomes. If you think you are eligible, check out the details. At the very least, it is good to know the bank encourages their employees to volunteer with non-profits and then backs it up with some financial support. (Hey, I also don’t live in a Wachovia state!)

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
As the foundation name suggests, they are primarily focused on contemporary visual arts. However, they do occasionally support performing artists “when the visual arts are an inherent element of a production.” The scope of what they support in visual arts is pretty broad and includes scholarship as well as exhibitions, catalogs and creation of new works. There is also an award for defending the First Amendment right of artists.

Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs
This one is actually a program of the U.S. State Department supporting “cultural exchanges around the world as part of the nation’s public diplomacy strategy. ‘The Department’s agreements support academic, cultural and professional exchange and training programs as a means of seeking mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries and to promote the free exchange of information and ideas.'” If you want to be part of promoting international understanding, you may want to check out the website. I am actually not clear how performers position themselves to be considered since the project proposals apparently originate from what I assume are U.S. Embassies abroad.

The Dana Foundation
The Dana Foundation supports programs that provide professional development opportunities for arts specialists and professional artists who teach preK-12. They are looking for people who have created a curriculum for teaching the teachers essentially. Bad news is the are interested in supporting project originating in 50 mile radius around NYC, Los Angeles or Washington D.C. OR in rural areas. Not so good for those folks in Chicago and Dallas, et. al. but there are still a lot of people able to qualify from rural areas.

National Education Association (NEA) Foundation
The NEA you may not be as familiar with. These folks are also interested in supporting education, but don’t have a geographic limit. They also don’t have a subject area limit so you are potentially competing with everyone from every public school and public higher education institution. On the flip side, this provides possibilities for interdisciplinary and college prep projects.

The Multi-Arts Production (MAP) Fund
“A program of Creative Capital, supports original new work in all disciplines and traditions of the live performing arts. The goal of the MAP Fund is “to assist artists who are exploring and challenging the dynamics of live performance within our changing society, thus reflecting our culture’s innovation and growing diversity.” I haven’t applied for this but some groups with whom we closely partner have. It is a pretty competitive from what I hear.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
The NEA we all know. Whether Barack Obama will be able to make good on his promises to have a robust arts policy while he is fighting to get the economy stimulated to the point it can be described as tepid remains to be seen. Still, seems like the time to stand up and advocate and apply for some funding.

Marketing Tip- Public Radio Fund Drives

Everybody Wins

There is a helpful marketing tip of which I have been aware but neglected to mention. If you ever have the opportunity, it could be beneficial to appear on a fund drive for your local public radio station. The result can be a win-win situation for both you and the station. I have never been on, but will be this weekend. I have a few colleagues who speak well of the opportunity. I will admit as many times as other have talked about the value of the experience, I didn’t take the initiative to approach the station about the possibility, they called me in this instance. But if all goes, well perhaps I will be submitting proposals in the future.

If you can provide some sort of desirable item or service they can use as a premium reward for listener support and are willing to go on air to encourage people to pledge some support, you will also have the opportunity to talk about your organization. After all, the better your organization sounds, the more desirable the tickets/membership/sculpture reproduction you are offering appears, the higher the station can value the objects or services you provide today and in subsequent years.

All About Building Awareness

Even if the timing of the particular pledge drive falls during your off season so you are offering subscriptions to an unannounced season or to a very popular annual event whose details haven’t been finalized yet so you can’t talk about specifics, the mere act of increasing awareness of your organization is of value. My appearance on the show may not result in any ticket sales but at the very least it creates goodwill by showing we support a program listeners care about.

That is why I refer to this as a marketing opportunity rather than advertising. First of all, public radio stations have restrictions on calls to action in underwriting so there may be a restriction during fund drives as well. Second, this is a much greater opportunity to tell your story and position yourself in the community than is afforded during a 30 second advertising post. The value of the tickets versus being able to talk about my organization for a couple of minutes between songs over the course of 30-45 minutes is a pretty good trade off.

Different Preparation

Having an expanded opportunity to talk about your organization means a different type of preparation than goes into writing press releases and ad copy. As I said, I haven’t been on yet but it is clear to me that as with any public appearance by a organizational representative doing a little advance research and picking the correct person to represent you is crucial. Not only do they have to be conversational rather than woodenly reciting, “Yes, Bob, we have been presenting the finest in polka and klezmer at the corner of Oak and Main for 34 years,” they have to assist the fund drive by citing the value of public radio to the community.

Obviously, what your organization does has to mesh with the programming on the station to some degree. We don’t do a lot of classical music so I am not going to be appearing during any of the classical music shows. But that works out for me because I will be on during the show that is most closely aligned with the performances we do present. It should go without saying it is also good if you sincerely feel the station is a benefit to the community and can speak passionately on the subject rather than just looking to exploit the opportunity entirely for your organization’s gain.

I’ll be interested to see how things turn out and will certainly report on the results.

NB- It occurs to me that I was remiss in mentioning that in the absence of being able to actively chat about your organization on air, you and your staff could volunteer to staff the phones or provide other assistance. I have never not heard the station host praise the organizations assisting with the phones by name numerous times an hour. Again helps generate awareness and good will for your organization.

Actually, Now I Am Even More Confused

Because copyright is a confusing issue, the folks over at the American Library Association have created this nifty little slider tool to help you determine if something is in the public domain or not. Frankly, at one time I thought there were some pretty simple rules of thumb you could use but now that I have seen this device, I am even more confused.

For instance, if you created a work before 1979 and published it before 2003, you might be protected. However, if during that time period, you happened to publish it between 1978 and March 1, 1989 and didn’t put a copyright notice on your work and never registered it, it is not protected and the work is in the public domain. Now given that I wrote a short story for school back in 1983 and did put a copyright notice on it, I think I am covered even though it was never registered or officially published. (Unless the photocopying of proud parents counts.)

Now I happened across an interesting situation. According to the chart, any work published before 1923 needs no permission and is in the public domain. Elmer Rice’s Adding Machine was first published in 1922 as noted here. While it was faithfully renewed, it should still be in the public domain. However, if you go over to the Samuel French website, they want $75 a performance for it.

So the question is, does Samuel French have the right to do so or not? The answer probably requires consulting experts. So despite the best intentions, this little device doesn’t really simplify matters at all and only serves to show us how little most of us really understand about copyright protection.