Content, broadcast and arts audiences

8 May 2012 Artery

I am here to present Connecting:// arts audience online, the Australia Council’s research into audiences and online media at the American Association of Museums Annual Meeting in Minneapolis. This annual conference brings together more than 4,000 museum and gallery professionals from across the US and around the world.

Connecting arts explores the way audiences use online technology. The study tracks audiences’ online journey; from discovery of an event through to attendance, participation and talking about it afterwards. I think the most significant finding relates to the increased role of word of mouth. Once the realm of the pillow and the pub, word of mouth now occurs largely online, bringing a previously unquantifiable but very powerful medium into the open.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous presenting the research to a largely US audience. We often hear that Australia lags behind in the uptake of digital media. I was concerned I might come across as a small upstart from Australia, who’s just discovered the miracles of the social web.

I presented alongside two US marketing specialists. Each of us discussed a different perspective on building brands. Pleasingly – and to my relief – our research was extremely well received. In fact I was asked if Australia was ahead of the rest of the world as the research was so compelling. We know the research has been well used in Australia; our Connecting arts website still receives 700+ visits per month although the research was conducted back in 2010. That’s a long time ago in digital years.

Another part of my presentation was about how twitchy the mainstream media seem to be with the uptake of social media. And how they try to undermine and underplay its use. I have collected catchy headlines such as: ‘Aussies leave Facebook in droves’ and ‘Generation Y online but oh so lonely’. For me, the media comment only reinforces what a valuable medium we have developed. The arts in particular have developed a relationship with audiences built on trust and fabulous content.

Serendipitously my session was followed by a panel of journalists discussing media issues. They discussed deal making and their dislike of embargoes and exclusives. It was a conversation about power. It’s simple; media want power. One panellist raised the fabulous Walker Art Centre and their use of online media. ‘The Walker are becoming their own media…and this is concerning for the media’.

This morning , most newspapers are running the headline, ‘Murdoch unfit as news titan’. The News of the World case is about power, control and who knew what. It reinforces a shift in control back to the consumer. I can’t help thinking about the differences between mainstream media practices and the arts. The arts are becoming their own hot house for content, broadcast and audiences. I know which industry has the brighter outlook.

Rose Hiscock – Director, Arts Development, Australia Council for the Arts

Rose is responsible for building national and international audiences and markets for Australian Arts. Rose’s career spans both commercial and cultural sectors. She has worked in audience development, strategic marketing and building and communicating cultural brands. Prior to working for the Australia Council, Rose led Museum Victoria’s marketing and commercial operations where she was responsible for considerable commercial growth as well as significant campaigns such as the successful Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibitions.

Image Credit: Rose Hiscock