Working Differently, not Harder
The piece by Melody Kramer in Poynter yesterday is directed at journalists and uses the changes some museums are incorporating into their operating processes as encouragement for our news providers to attract audiences by trying new paths for engagement.
With so many industries challenged by slipping attention and sliding audience numbers, we have to ask, "What, exactly, is broken?"
The answer may be that it's not broken, but our society is changing and along with it, our ability to anticipate the needs and desires of the people we serve. In an age when cinema, with all the multiplexes providing choice, experiences falling attendance numbers, adding recliners and adult beverages may be too little too late.
The trend that has been around awhile is to afford your audience choices. Many younger audiences want a sense of control over their choices for learning and leisure time and do not want others telling them "this is important".
Open choice, however, in the age of the Internet borders on chaos and some find NOT choosing is the easiest position.
A micro-trend that is following on the heels of self-directed choice is "curated" experiences and isn't that exactly what museums do? Perhaps, but museums still require large effort on the part of a visitor to plan, travel, pay, and commit a great deal of time to enjoy the galleries. Once they get there...they find that they didn't curate the experience, someone else did.
The critical difference is the user in 2018 clearly wants to see ALL the choices available to her/him and then select specific interests among those choices. Museums only offer a few choices and present them without any initial input from the user.
I am a lifelong supporter of museums and how they offer authenticity and expertise, but that may not be enough for our future audiences to offset the fact they they didn't get to choose first.
The Selfie as Art fad is something deeper. Huge audience numbers to view selfies as art would seem to indicate that the viewer, sans selfie, wasn't identifying enough with only the art.
So, the challenge is, how do museum leaders give voice and choice to their audiences without giving up expertise?