The art industry has, in the past, been quite slow to jump aboard the Internet bandwagon. Once considering it too pedestrian, many museums and galleries are now embracing new media and are seeing the positive results of opening up their artistic arms to the greater public. Museums, galleries and artists alike are now all agreeing that a website is not a fad and is a major component in their business collateral. You will not likely find a museum that hasn't spent several thousands dollars on a website and online marketing/advertising. In doing so, these organizations are clearly finding the investment is justified.
Yet, there are many who simply resist participating in what can be a very valuable and powerful outreach tool. I must admit, I really don't understand this mindset. A recent conversation with a client once again causes me to reflect on what exactly is the value of new media in the art industry and how is it best harnessed to bring about a favorable ROI.
Now I could talk here until I'm blue in the face about all the benefits of new media for the art industry.... or any business for that matter. As a person who deals on a daily basis with artists, galleries and art organizations, I frequently find myself in the mist of conversation debating the value of online marketing. I could tell you that there are buyers and collectors of fine art that actually have "monthly Internet purchasing budgets." I could tell you that gallery directors regularly search the Internet for art news, exhibition reviews and art work. Museums not only are investing in websites but they are also taking innovative approaches at using the Internet to build their in-person attendance. Let's take a look at the facts and figures.
News24.com, published on article on March 28, 2008, Web Boost for Museums. The article talks about how museums are finding that sculpture and art once stored away, is now finding a new audience online. Now able to show these works on their websites, the museums are finding "that rather than diminishing the number of museum visits, the web is actually boosting in-person attendance."
Offering more than just information on museum hours and driving directions, these institutions are now seeing the beauty of providing their inventory to visitors who may never be able to actually get to the museum. The person in Connecticut can now access the wonderful works and resources of a museum in London....or Sydney... or Cleveland. A gallery in London can pursue the work of an artist in New York. News24.com reports via The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, that Internet users actually go visit the museum 2.6 times more than those who don't. The ILMS further reports on Feb 28, 2008:
- Libraries and museums are the most trusted sources of online information among adults of all ages, education levels, races, and ethnicities. Libraries and museums rank higher in trustworthiness than all other information sources including government, commercial, and private Web sites. The study shows that the public trust of museums and libraries migrates to the online environment.
- The explosive growth of information available in the Information Age actually whets Americans appetite for more information. People search for information in many places and since the use of one source leads to others, museums, public libraries, and the Internet complement each other in this information-rich environment.
- The Internet is not replacing in-person visits to libraries and museums and may actually increase onsite use of libraries and museums. There is a positive relationship between Internet use and in-person visits to museums and public libraries. In 2006 remote online access increased adult visits to museums by 75%.
But you can't just build a website and hope the people will come. You can't bemoan the value of the Internet if you are not willing to take the time and effort to build your online business collateral. It sounds strange but this wonderful online marketing tool known as your website or blog, must be marketed as well. Submitting your URL to third party sites, utilizing email campaigns, advertising your domain name and offering quality content is what will create a successful online presence. It takes time, money and creativity. This is a journey not a sprint.
BizReport's Kristina Knight, and The US Email Marketing Forecast, reports that email marketing is expected to rise by 75% by 2012 and to reach $1.2B. That's a pretty impressive number. Email marketing, while it still has its issues, works because it's quick and results can be tracked and analyzed within hours. Its geographic outreach is vast. And instead of waiting days for a postal direct mail campaign to deliver results, galleries, artists and museums can reach out to recipients immediately. Additionally, it's cost effective. The price of postage and postcard or brochure printing for every announcement can get pretty costly.
Setting up and participating in a blog is a very effective way to drive Internet traffic to your website and thus increase sales and recognition. The effect of a blog is cumulative because the posts you create are published online immediately (via RSS) and stay online FORVER. Jim Spadaccini at Ideum reports that museum blogging is now mainstream. In a post dated October 18th, 2007, Jim discusses the findings he compiled for a conference at the Association of Science-Technology Center. His findings showed 211 blogs were listed in the Museums Blogs directory. By the time he returned from the conference he was surprised to find that 20 new museums had submitted to Museum Blogs. His findings were already (only 10 days later) quite dated.
While this article focuses mainly on Museums and the Internet, these findings should provide a basis for establishing the Value of the Internet in the Arts Industry. Artists and galleries should not only follow this lead but also apply the principals of online marketing and promotion to their own businesses. In December 2004, Pew Internet published a report "Artists, Musicians and The Internet." The report states that artists and musicians "have embraced the Internet as a tool that helps them create, promote, and sell their work." The report goes on to say "Artists and musicians on all points of the spectrum from superstars to starving singers have embraced the internet as a tool to improve how they make, market, and sell their creative works. They use the internet to gain inspiration, build community with fans and fellow artists, and pursue new commercial activity." Of those participating in the Pew report, 23% of all online artists and 41% of Paid Online Artists say the internet has helped them in their creative pursuits and careers.
It is my hope, that this post in some way encourages the art community to take better advantage of the Internet for marketing and promotion. It just seems to make perfect common sense to me. Additionally there are great resources for inspiration, creativity, learning, outreach and community. While I deeply understand that artists really just want to do what they are most compelled to do, create art, to simply dismiss the power of the Internet and its benefits to the arts would be a grave mistake.
At this time, Jim Spadaccini is requesting museum feedback on a survey he is conducting at Ideum. The folks at Ideum are in the process of writing their first National Science Foundation grant proposal to fund Open Exhibits, a project that will allow them to develop, test, and disseminate three open source software templates that will allow museum professionals’ to assemble electronic exhibits for the museum floor. If you are a museum professional, please take a few minutes to complete the survey — and please help spread the word about it. It will take about 20 minutes and Ideum will share the results with everyone who participates. They will also keep you updated about the status of Open Exhibits.