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May 1, 2007

Oh, so much to do...

I'm not posting early this week due to a crazed schedule. Take the opportunity to write you're own post in the comments field!

Posted by ataylor at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

May 2, 2007

How many users are actually generating content?

Web-watcher Donna Bogatin challenges a basic assumption of social networks on the web, and sites that celebrate the rise of the active user. She suggests that while media mavens are heralding the new world of user-generated content and a new democracy in public expression, statistics show that most of the world is still just watching.

For example, she points to the dramatic ratio between videos uploaded and videos viewed on YouTube (one-tenth of one percent), and wonders if the user-empowered on-line world is just a new version of the media world that already existed:

All of the Web 2.0 Social Web properties which rely on users to contribute content are faced with what I call the "Social Freeloaders" phenomenon. As in the "real-world," interactions within social communities on the Web are dominated by an extremely small, self-selected minority of active, vocal participants.

Using similar statistics, however, Charles Leadbeater is ecstatic about the prospect of a one-percent participation rate. In his speech to the TED conference (linked in an earlier weblog), he suggests that one percent of a very large community is actually quite a powerful thing.

If you are a games company and you've got a million players in your game, you only need one percent of them to be co-developers, contributing ideas, and you've got a development workforce of ten thousand people. Imagine you could take all the children in education in Britain, and one percent of them were co-developers of education. What would that do to the resources available to the education system?

So, is the Internet creating a new generation of ''content makers'' or yet another generation of watchers with a few makers in the mix? And how many ''makers'' does it take to transform the world? No way to know but to watch it unfold.

Posted by ataylor at 8:49 AM | Comments (5)

May 4, 2007

Choosing not to be active

A circuitous route (Neill Roan's blog to Kevin Daoust to Steve Rubel to Forrester Research's weblog) led me to Forrester's recent report on ''Social Technographics.'' The report explores and categorizes the behavior of individuals on-line, focusing on how they use social technologies (such as weblogs, feeds, tags, social network sites, etc.). The report, itself, comes at a cost ($275). But the public elements of the findings are useful on their own (for more details, see Steve Rubel's entry).

Forrester participation ladderThe research authors offer a segmentation model, based on on-line consumer behavior, that cuts to the question I was asking earlier this week: How participatory is the web, really? And how true is the assumption that web technologies create a world of content-creators rather than a world of content-watchers.

According to Forrester's research, a full 52 percent of on-line consumers are ''inactives,'' engaging in none of the identified social networking activities. Some 33 percent prefer to watch, read, or listen, without contributing to content. While those higher up the ''participation ladder'' are more active collectors of content, critics or commenters, or creators of their own pages, blogs or videos.

You can see the participation ladder in their graphic on-line.

It's a handy reminder that in our enthusiasm and panic to embrace the participatory audience -- the hands-on arts consumer -- we shouldn't forget the large percentage that really just want to watch. Further, the same individual consumer may change their preference for direct engagement as often as they change their mood. The trick remains in offering a range of options for connecting to creative work, some sleeves-up and hands-on, others reactive or responsive, and still others left to quietly observe.

Posted by ataylor at 8:20 AM | Comments (3)

May 9, 2007

Into the fire...literally

The last week of classes here at UW-Madison and my various other activities have left my weblog postless for a few days. Sorry about that.

I'll have more time and more fodder following my trip this week to the Getty in Los Angeles, for a roundtable conversation on the arts. The session (fire notwithstanding) will explore trends in leisure time and cultural participation. I'll be reporting on the conversation in several future posts.


Posted by ataylor at 2:29 PM | Comments (2)

May 21, 2007

Reconsidering leisure time

Do you have more or less leisure time than a decade ago? Do you have more or less than your parents did, or their parents? And regardless of the scope and scale, do you scan, filter, select, participate in, and evaluate your leisure activities differently than you once did? Finally, how do you think your peers, neighbors, audiences, board members, donors, and community members might answer the questions above?

The issue of leisure and cultural organizations was the focus of a fascinating two-day conversation I attended two weeks back at The Getty Center in Los Angeles. Co-hosted by the Getty Leadership Institute and National Arts Strategies, ''Cultural Organizations and Changing Leisure Trends'' gathered 34 thoughtful folks from the nonprofit cultural sector, commercial entertainment, academia, and points in between for focused analysis and response.

I'll be blogging on the event this week, as it cuts to the heart of a range of issues facing cultural managers now and into the coming decades. In the meanwhile, take a peek at the event weblog, where participants are posting their lingering thoughts, and give a read to the fabulous overview and context document prepared for the event (available in pdf format).

Posted by ataylor at 8:49 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2007

Fractured and seamless, alone and connected

Any dive into the data of leisure time leads to a strange and contradictory place. Extracting just a few of the factoids from the recent Getty convening background paper (noted and linked in my previous post):

  • The percentage of U.S. commuters using private vehicles in 2005: 88
    • The percentage of these commuters driving alone: 90
  • In 1940, the percentage of U.S. households consisting of a single person: 7.7
    • That percentage in 2000: 25
  • Number of sleeping pill prescriptions filled in 2000: 26.25 million
    • Number of sleeping pill prescriptions filled in 2005: 42 million
  • Number of square feet in the average American residence, in 1950: 983
    • That number in 2005: 2434
  • Number of leisure hours gained by Americans over the four decades leading to the twenty first century: 6 to 9 per week
    • Percentage of American workers whose lunch lasts less then 30 minutes: 55
    • Percentage of workers who spend lunch ''working with colleagues'': 49

So the data tells us we have more free time, but we also work more intensely and have trouble turning off...that we're more connected, yet more often alone...that we're living in bigger houses, but subject to more income inequity...that we have more choices and opportunities than any civilization before us, but feel less in control than our parents did.

So, where do cultural organizations and cultural experiences fit in this increasingly fractured world? Are extended, immersive, and focused cultural events antidotes or anachronisms? And do cultural managers change with their audience, or remain true to their traditions?

Therein lies the interesting conversation...

Posted by ataylor at 12:55 AM | Comments (4)

May 24, 2007

The need for narrative

''Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.''
--Albert Einstein.

During the Getty Center convening on leisure time and culture discussed in my last two posts, one theme kept emerging (at least in my head): the power and positive place of narrative in a fractured and complex world.

Commercial marketers are increasingly discovering the role of stories and personal narrative in placing products and services in context (it's not about the product anymore, but about how the product fits into your life). In a world of distractions and constantly shifting focus, narrative can often provide the arc of meaning and the throughline of context to otherwise drifting days.

Smart managers are extending that idea beyond marketing. For example, a conference participant from a major auto firm talked about commissioning filmmakers to distill and convey key concepts from a 2000-page strategic report for their engineers, salespeople, and management team. The same company now hires illustrators, rather than technical designers, to prepare graphics for their reports, as illustrators know how to convey meaning, rather than just schematic fact.

It struck me that arts organizations are all about reflective narrative in the broadest sense. Actions and artifacts of creative expression can be little maps of place and identity, even as all our other maps recombine and fall away (corporate hierarchy, social infrastructure, traditional work and life norms, and such).

This is not to say that arts experiences make life easier or more clear, just that they give us context in an increasingly decontextualized world. There's got to be something of value and purpose in there for the cultural manager.

Posted by ataylor at 6:15 AM | Comments (2)

May 29, 2007

Time-wasting money-losers, aka charity events

I'll be blogging more about the recent ''leisure trends'' roundtable at the Getty Center this week, but wanted to take a break to flag a new report on special event fundraising from Charity Navigator. The analysis (also reported here in the Wisconsin State Journal, with the ''local'' angle) suggests that special events, on average, are awful ways to raise money.

Says the report:

On average, the charities we studied spent $1.33 to raise $1 in special events contributions, compared to an average overall fundraising rate of $.13 to raise $1. Only 15% of the charities that held special events were more efficient when using special events to fundraise than they were in their regular fundraising activities on the whole.

Among health organizations, the study found special event costs of $1.84 for every dollar raised.

To make matters worse, the reported costs used in the study (from IRS tax documents) don't include the person-hours, board time, volunteer effort, and staff distraction that such events require -- suggesting the true cost of each dollar raised is much, much higher.

Admittedly, special events are not just about raising money. They provide public events, celebration of achievement, recognition of volunteers, donors, and community members, and gateways for new constituents to learn about your organization. These are all noble goals, as long as your organization is balancing its strategy and costs against all other opportunities to do the same thing.

But the report should nudge you to ask yourself, your staff, and your board the obvious but awkward question: Are the benefits of our special events worth their actual cost? And if not, why on earth are we doing them?

Posted by ataylor at 9:13 AM | Comments (8)

May 30, 2007

''Leisure Class'' or ''Cheap and Easy''?

Given the uncertainty of the future of leisure time and disposable income for your audience, how do prepare your organization and your strategy? At the recent convening at The Getty Center on leisure time and culture, the participants dived into that very problem through a scenario exercise prepared by our facilitator, Steven J. Tepper.

Scenario exercises are constructed around ''critical uncertainties'' -- the unpredictable dynamics that will have the most important impact on the issue at hand. For the Getty convening, ''time and money'' provided the obvious matrix: will individuals have more or less leisure time in the future (on average), and will they have more or less discretionary income?

Leisure Time ScenarioFrom these two spectra, you can construct a matrix with four quadrants (more time, more money; more time, less money; and so on), and project how that possible future might look, and how you or your organization would behave in response.

So, here are Steven Tepper's descriptions of each of these possible futures. None of them will come true, exactly. But each offers an opportunity to ask ''what if?''. How would your organization respond to remain relevant, connected, sustainable, and dynamic? Or, would you respond by holding your ground? (Thanks to Steven for granting permission for this public reprint.)

The Leisure Class (more time, more money)
This is a world where people have the time and money to treat themselves to the very best that culture can provide. Luxury cruises, resorts, dude ranch holidays, and other ''full service'' leisure experiences will be in high demand. People will want to fully immerse themselves and escape into ''leisure'' paradises.

JIT VIPs (less time, more money)
This is a world where people are willing to pay an extra premium for convenient access to culture. Everyone can be a VIP. They will pay extra to avoid standing in lines at the movies or at restaurants and will gladly pay for the ability to make last-minute decisions. Audiences will want to keep all of their options open as long as possible -- ''just in time'' leisure. This is also a world of ''drive-by'' culture -- as people will search out experiences that allow them to drop in or drive by without having to commit significant amounts of time.

Cheap and Easy (less time, less money)
This is a world where people are looking for culture that will fit into their busy schedules, and will not cost them a lot of money. They will want culture on their phones, PDAs, televisions and computers. This will be culture that is heavily driven by advertising revenue and commercial sponsorship. And, ''leisure at scale'' will dominate -- with organizations trying to reduce costs by mass producing culture.

19th Century All Over Again (more time, less money)
This is a world where people make and share their own culture. They have the time to invest in their own cultural pursuits but do not have the money to spend on ''professionally'' produced and packaged art and culture. It is a world dominated by professional amateur artists. People engage with arts and culture locally, and the arts have a decidedly community feel about them. For those digitally savvy citizens, this is a world where you have the time to search the vast sea of cultural offerings, looking for ''free culture'' or stealing culture that you can not get for free. This is also a world where ''mavens'' rule -- people who have the time and inclination to search out great (and inexpensive) cultural offerings and make recommendations to their friends and family.

Posted by ataylor at 9:01 AM | Comments (3)

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