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Top Technology Trends: What’s Ahead for Arts Marketers in 2011

In this tough economy, most of us have encouraged ourselves and others to look ahead to brighter times. But, what exactly lies ahead in the next year for us? How can we make the most of our future?

In 2010, technology influenced our field tremendously. Some predicted trends, like Google Wave and Google Buzz, failed to take off, and many unexpected trends, like group-manipulated pricing and Ask a Curator , flourished. The following are some major trends that have gathered momentum in the past year and/or are poised to take off in 2011:

Group discounts and group-manipulated pricing

Group discount sites exploded in popularity in 2010. While many organizations have a group sales manager or special deals for groups, these sites allow people to opt in to a deal that will only go live if enough people opt in, encouraging people to sell to their friends. Groupon now boasts 35 million subscribers and 18 million Groupons sold in North America. However, marketers question their ability to attract repeat visitors. Now that the initial novelty has worn off, hopefully the knowledge we’ve gained will result in smarter offers. I recently heard from a colleague about a ballet company that didn’t cap their Nutcracker offer and lost revenue on their offer.

Since the advent of these group-buying applications, many variants have cropped up. For example, Uniqlo’s Lucky Counter makes clear to the consumer the advantage of group buying, by lowering the price on the offer in real-time as more people sign up. Arts organizations also started implementing dynamic pricing, similar to the way in which airlines price their tickets.

image of smart phoneGo mobile or go home: mobile app development and mobile ticketing
Photo: iPhone sunset in the Andes by Gonzalo Baeza Hernández

In 2010 Wired reported “The Web is Dead”, meaning that the way people use the Internet is moving away from web access on a desktop or laptop computer to mobile applications. Arts organizations have started asking themselves if their website is mobile friendly and, along with companies like InstantEncore and Pop Media, have started to develop apps.

Pop Media has developed Cloudtix, which uses Tessitura to sell tickets in real time through mobile apps and download a scanable ticket to their phone.

Bill Predmore of Pop Media compares the rise of mobile apps this year to website development in 1997.  “Arts orgs started out with a ‘brochure site’ and slowly began to evolve as they realized their capabilities. Things will happen a lot more quickly this time.”

So if the web is dead, which is worth more investment: mobile websites or mobile apps? And if you are going to develop an app, which platform do you develop it for? While Apple’s iOS devices (including iPad, iPhone, and iPod) still outnumber Android devices, Android phones have overtaken iPhones in terms of market share. 

Predmore advises companies to begin to look into all three: iOS, Android and mobile websites. “Things are changing rapidly and it’s difficult to know what’s going to be there a year from now. For this reason, many organizations are reluctant to make an investment. But patrons are going to expect you to be there and if you’re not, there’s a problem.”

Changing media consumption

At the same time that Internet usage is shifting to mobile devices, the way audiences consume entertainment is changing. The introduction of tablet-style devices like the iPad  and 4G-capable phones running on Android means more people are consuming mobile entertainment, especially video , than ever before. iPad users are also more likely to complete video ads (63%) than desktop video viewers (53%).

In the past several years, performing arts organizations have started taking their performances outside of the theater and concert hall with initiatives like the Met’s Live in HD, San Francisco Opera’s Opera in the Ballpark, and most recently, L.A. Phil Live. In 2010, we saw a shift to more online streaming video. Sites like Tendu TV and classicaltv aggregate video of performances. Streaming on platforms like Livestream has become more commonplace, notably Chris Elam’s efforts with Misnomer Dance Theatre.  Recently YouTube announced  that it would offer live streaming to its content partners, several of which are arts organizations.

The privacy debatesky scape
Photo: Are you in the cloud? by James Jordan

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how they are being tracked by marketers. At the same time advertisers are under more pressure than ever monetize their online investments as they cut offline budgets. Last year was notable in that two major companies have made privacy faux pas:Facebook over profile information and Google over Buzz. These controversies as well as the rise in location-based apps and ever-nichified Facebook ads  have made people more aware of exactly how much information marketers have about them. (If you want to know how much personal information marketers know about you, check out rapleaf.com .

How does this apply to arts orgs? At the same time these privacy concerns have surfaced, arts organizations are being persuaded to move to shared service models, in which databases may be shared by multiple organizations, or have started using other platforms which use cloud computing (where the organization’s data is stored on outside servers). As patrons become more aware of where their information is stored, employees also worry about the security of cloud computing. At the same time, they wonder how secure their database was in the first place. Bottom line: arts organizations should remember that it is crucial to be transparent about their privacy policies to patrons.

screen shot of four squre websiteRise of location-based social media

No discussion of arts and technology in 2010 would be complete without mentioning location-based platforms like FourSquare, GoWalla, Facebook Places, and Google Latitude. Foursqaure was up 33.2 million users in 2010 from 12.3 million users in 2009.

Arts organizations, most of which position themselves as serving local community, are starting to understand the potential for hyper-local platforms like this. Location-based applications are increasingly attracting young, urban influencers with disposable income—precisely the audience many arts organizations are trying to attract. People connect to geolocation apps primarily to “get informed” and “obtain promotions”  rather than “to compete” to become mayor of their favorite locations.

2011 will likely determine which “check-in” application will dominate. As of November 2010 Facebook Places had 7 times  more users than FourSquare, but Places users utilize the service less frequently. So, which platform will win out? Independent companies like GoWalla and FourSquare, or platforms emerging from established networks and services like Facebook and Google?

What do you think were the biggest trends in arts marketing in 2010? What do you see ahead for 2011?