Old school versus new media

It keeps coming up. At the Arts Summit a couple of weeks ago. At a workshop I was giving on the weekend. In a committee of the GVPTA that I am involved with.

The world is changing. Are we going to choose to react and adapt, or should we try to take the bull by the horns and make it adapt to us?

I’m referring to the old guard. I was giving a workshop on publicity on the weekend, and one of the participants, who was there to learn about how to promote his theatre company using new media, said that one of his greatest challenges was convincing the board of directors and people who ran the company that new media was the way to go. They have been doing things for so long (“just spend $600 and buy newspaper ads”) a certain way, that they don’t even realize it’s not working any more.

Guess what? It’s not working any more.

The return on your investment of buying an ad in a newspaper is exceedingly low. Even publicity is getting harder and harder to book. In the past year, we have gone, in Vancouver, from having 6 theatre reviewers at newspapers, to, at one point this year, 3. Paul Grant, a 30-year vetran of CBC radio, and a tireless arts reporter, is taking a retirement package at the end of this summer, and his position will not be replaced. Space for the arts is shrinking in the traditional media at an alarming rate.

And, while I think that adapting to this new situation is certainly required, I don’t think that it is the full answer. Yes, we need to educate ourselves and our boards of directors about new media, and yes, we need to pitch our shows to bloggers (or start our own!), and participate in social networking. But, as Simon says, you can’t just graft old media techniques onto the new media.

What we really need to do is to take matters into our own hands and create our own media outlet for the Vancouver arts scene. Yes, I realize that this is a huge task. But I feel like there is a big hole out there, and it needs to be filled. We need a website that is the default go-to site for the Vancouver arts community. And it has to be good–with high quality editorial standards.

I’m not exactly sure how to make this happen, as I’m only one person, and to create something like this is going to take time and resources that are beyond me. But I’m talking to some people right now, and there is power in creating a community of like-minded individuals.

I will certainly keep you in the loop.

Read more about this topic over at the Alliance for Arts and Culture’s blog.

Read Are We Losing the Mainstream Media?

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 9

  1. The Vancouver Observer is going to be relaunching its site in August with a beautiful dedicated Arts and Culture page on open source software. We will be recruiting bloggers and reviewers to cover the arts and we will also have a free Events page for groups to list their performances and shows. It will be a great platform for anyone with basic writing skills who wants to write about the arts and help fill the gap that you are talking about here.

  2. Interesting point. My question though is how influencial is new media to the baby boomers? Many of them have dabbled with facebook etc but very few have really embraced Twitter. From what I’ve researched, the majority of them prefer radio or the local paper to online formats. I’m in my early 30’s and totally embrace technology(I’m writing this on my iPhone). If a product or service is for my generation or younger then go all new media. If you want to reach the largest and wealthiest population old media should likely be a part of your marketing strategy. Thoughts?

    1. @ Linda: Thanks for that, I’ll keep an eye out!
      @Duncan: Thanks for your comment (written from your Iphone!). There was an article that just came out yesterday that talks about how Facebook’s main demographic is now 35-54. Yeah, they might be a bit behind the times with Twitter, but it seems like they are embracing Facebook enthusiastically.
      I make a living as a publicist, and I’m not by any means advocating throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I certainly do still pitch stories to the traditional forms of media, and am super happy when I’m successful (got something on TV tonight, in fact!). But in addition to that, and what sets me apart from the other publicists in town, is that I also launch an attack through social media. But it’s scattershot–a facebook page, various tweets, a web presence, and pitching to bloggers. I’d just love for something to be more central in terms of a place for people to go to find out what’s going on in the arts community.
      Oh, and here’s that article: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebooks_own_estimates_show_youth_flight_from_sit.php

  3. we’re currently at a point where both old and new media need to be combined – what needs to be determined is exactly what Duncan says – who uses what type of media to find out about your productions. It’s all well and good to set up a Twitter account but if your audience doesn’t use it, it’s completely ineffective.
    I’m fully in favour of creating a combined strategy to market productions, and more importantly, following up afterwards to find out how your patrons found out about your shows, and then re-tailoring your marketing plan to suit.
    This also brings up the idea of overall strategy and analytics – is there someone in your organization who knows how to analyze and track the data you’re compiling? Who can analyze what worked and what didn’? If you can analyze and track this data, knowing how your audience found out about you and where they came from, you can ultimately create an extremely targeted marketing plan, thus saving yourself the most valuable resources you have – time and money, not to mention – these are the numbers and data your boards of directors and people who run the company are looking for. The worth of social media needs to be proven to them.
    Yes – I am an arts marketing geek….

  4. The theatre scene in Austin, Texas, may be similar to that in Vancouver, so let me offer an example. I retired from the Federal government in 2007 and relocated with my family to Austin. Although I’m a theatre buff, I didn’t realize until we had been her for almost a year the extent of the offerings in drama. Given the paucity of coverage in Austin’s daily and weekly papers, I established my own blog, which has developed to AustinLiveTheatre.com. In the year since its establishment, ALTcom has become a reference site for Austin’s theatre community, who are hungry for coverage and for an Internet space for their announcements. Many — in fact, most — of Austin’s theatrical productions get their only review here. And I’m one of those creaky old baby boomers! It is NOT a commercial model, at least for now, but rather a labor of love. Thanks to Rebecca and others for the ongoing discussion of these issues.

    1. We have a go-to website here in Vancouver that is administered by they guy who used to be the theatre critic for one of the local papers: http://www.vancouverplays.com. It’s a great site, and most people in the theatre community use it. However, it no longer posts reviews, because Jerry used to just publish the reviews he wrote for the paper there, but now he’s not doing that any more… Also, it’s not social media in the true sense of the word, because it’s not a blog, there’s no interactivity or new media (ie: videos/flickr stream, etc.). He charges about $80 for a month-long preview on his site, and because he gets about 60,000 hits per month, I consider it a good deal!
      Good on you for recognizing a need and filling it!

  5. The idea of a dedicated ‘Vancouver Arts’ site with high editorial standards is very appealing. Much like the theatre world, the classical music coverage in Vancouver is shrinking. The Sun didn’t replace their classical music reviewer when he left recently and are relying on a very qualified but over-stretched freelancer. We all know CBC has cut back arts support in general. I am pushing the groups I work with into Social Media and we are often ahead of the curve in that regards (at least in the choral world), but much of our audience falls above the Facebook median age, so it really is a balancing act between old and new media for us. If an dedicated Vancouver Arts site comes about, please alert me.

  6. This was sent to me in an email, and I asked her if it would be ok if I posted it in the comments section.

    Have you come across this site: http://www.thebigidea.co.nz – a New Zealand online art site for all things art. It may be inline with your thoughts.
    There must other similar sites but I haven’t done much search into it.

    Happy reading.

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