A Case for Audience Development:
“It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to you today. Our time chronicling the life of Denver and Colorado, the nation and the world, is over. Thousands of men and women have worked at this newspaper since William Byers produced its first edition on the banks of Cherry Creek on April 23, 1859. We speak, we believe, for all of them, when we say that it has been an honor to serve you. To have reached this day, the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News, just 55 days shy of its 150th birthday is painful. We will scatter…”
Newspapers today are a prime example of the need to evolve with the times or they will become extinct. I do not want this to happen to the arts industry, but I am seeing many organizations not survive the tough economic times and changes. I have been following the measures of audience development programs that newspapers all over the country are attempting to implement . Most of them have set up an online presence with the ability for people to comment and discuss the news articles. They are collaborating with community organizations to increase their visibility within the community. I have also seen the use of social applications like facebook and twitter to post links to their online formats. The Rocky Mountain News did implement many of these programs, but it must have been too little too late to stop the financial woes.
Audience development goes beyond marketing to connect with people in ways that they want to be reached. It is a more personal approach and a recognition that we are all individuals wanting something catered to us specifically. I can’t stress this enough that marketing alone will not save you. It wasn’t until the very end that the Rocky Mountain News even remotely initiated more personal efforts to save the newspaper. They clunked along mostly using the same old tired marketing efforts. You can use your demographics in a targeted fashion, but until you start to implement the 4 C’s, community, connection, collaboration, and caring, and really reach people (not demographics), more and more organizations will close.
I’m hoping that the arts starts evolving at a break neck speed in order to not fall prey to the same extinction. The arts needs to evolve in order to stay fresh with the times and to cater to the needs of an entirely new community with a new mentality. I happen to be of the generation that does not purchase a newspaper; I go online to get my news or watch a broadcast on television. I rarely look at my “junk” mail, and I do not buy tickets via brochures (well, maybe sometimes), but am more likely to respond to an email message and to purchase online. My most recent ticket purchase was to a theater that uses all the online tricks and a word of mouth program. A mutual friend sent me an email, and since this was a personal message, I did respond. How are you going to reach people like me?
So maybe this 150 year old newspaper’s ending can be a wake up call for the rest of us. There is a changing of the guard so to speak in how people want to receive information. As Eckhart Tolle boldly stated, “evolve or die.” It’s our choice. Are you ready and willing to change?
Until next time, may your audiences be happy and loyal ones, and if they are not, feel free to contact me!
Shoshana Fanizza is the founder of Audience Development Specialists. Her mission is to introduce artists and arts organizations to their existing and potential audiences and to help them to form more rewarding relationships.
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