Over in the UK right now Culture 24 are launching a report I worked on with them and many of the major cultural institutions in the UK. Coming from a need amongst web/digital people to find better ways of measuring the effectiveness of their work in the sector, the report – Let’s Get Real – pulls together analytics data from 3 years of activities online and in social media and makes a number of recommendations that are aimed at kickstarting, in the words of Culture24 Director, Jane Finnis, “a dramatic shift in the way we plan, invest and collaborate on the development of both the current and next generation digital cultural activities”.
The inability to effectively communicate the connection between delivering the institutional mission and digital projects is an ongoing concern to everyone working in museums. And at a time when there are increasing calls for museums to take roles that are more akin to broadcasters and publishers in the digital space, yet the majority of internal and external stakeholder value is still perceived as coming from visits to exhibitions and buildings, there is a pressing need to keep thinking about the ways digital projects report success (or otherwise!).
From my perspective, working with this diverse group of institutions was a lot of fun and very illuminating. It helped consolidate much of my thinking about the state of digital projects in the cultural sector and the long road ahead to really transform the way, particularly museums (less so the performing arts), use and adequately resource digital in their institutions. At the same time there were many unexpected surprises – the very different geographies of online visitors between institutions, and the comparatively low impact of social media in terms of website traffic, even for particularly well-promoted campaigns were revealing. The social media work by Rachel Clements also demonstrated that the easy option – reporting the numbers – greatly undersells the value of social media. The alternative, qualitative analysis, is much harder and requires more time and an understanding of why you are active in social media in the first place.
Have a read of the report (PDF) and see what you think.
For those involved in the project there was a lot more than number crunching – there were some amazingly productive working sessions and meetups – and the launch conference that is taking place right now in Bristol (check the #C24LGR hastag conversations!). In many ways the report captures only a fragment of the ‘value’ of the project as a whole.