Commentary: Are your subscription renewal rates too high?

Target Resource Group's Rick Lester, TRG Arts blog, 3/15/11

The closer renewal rates get to 100%, the less healthy the organization is likely to be.  The problem with really high renewal rates stems from the differences in subscriber types.  Long-time subscribers are very hard to lose. Poor pricing or artistic choices and inconsiderate communication can make them angry and vocal beyond measure. It's unusual, however, for a disgruntled long-time subscriber to express unhappiness by failing to renew a treasured subscription series and seat location. It takes a lengthy string of consistent missteps to chase away long-time subscribers. Why do faithful subscribers disappear? They die. They move away or become chronically ill. They lose their jobs. It typically requires a significant change in life circumstance before they give up their subscription.  What about first-year subscribers?   Their renewal is more dependent on their first season experience. Any organization's failure to assimilate new subscribers into the "family" results in huge attrition numbers every year -- two of every three first-time subscribers.   So, every time I hear a manager crow about their overall renewal rates hitting 85%, I don't join in their rejoicing. It's likely that this organization is failing to acquire new subscribers in substantial enough numbers for sustained audience growth. Healthy, growing companies typically accept renewal rates of 70-75%.  Rapidly growing organizations may see nearer 60% [renewals]. 

Commentary: Role of the arts in ending Philadelphia's 50-year decline in population

Gary Steuer, Arts Culture and Creative Economy blog, 3/14/11

The new Census numbers for Philadelphia are in, and the city managed to actually record a population increase, the first in 50 years. And while the increase was tiny -- 8,456 residents, which represents a .6% increase to 1,536,006, the reversal of the decades-long decline is huge. Many older industrial cities are shrinking in population so this increase is especially notable.  There are two big phenomena that jump out as you look at the detailed numbers, by neighborhood and by ethnicity. Clearly, the City is becoming much more diverse; Latino and Asian populations are a major contributor to the growth of the City.  [And] virtually all the neighborhoods that have seen huge population increases have also seen large increases in the number of arts organizations and artists living and operating in them. This is not an accident. Arts and culture are definitely part of the mix of elements fostering the population and economic resurgence of these neighborhoods, along with retail, restaurants and residential real estate development.   The connection between the changing demographics of the City and the arts should be obvious. Our "traditional" (i.e. not community-based, not culturally-specific) arts groups MUST find a way to connect with this growing component of the population if they are to survive and thrive. African American, Latino and Asian-American audiences (and donors!) must be engaged -- this is 63% of the market in the City.


Commentary: A movie that changes based on audience's collective live response

Jorjanna Price, New Scientist, 3/14/11

The lights go down and, as the film is about to begin, an announcer intones: "Everyone, please take a deep breath so we may begin recording the data."  This movie experience is going to be unlike any other. Select audience members will be monitored for their physiological responses as the plot builds, music swells and emotions come to the fore. These responses are going to actually shape the content of the film.  It was under these unusual circumstances that a group of movie pioneers rolled out the first public viewing of a short suspense film, Unsound, at the Ritz Theatre in Austin, Texas, on Sunday.  Nine audience members were hooked up to electronic sensors - three fingers on one hand and two fingers on the other - to monitor their pulse rate and galvanic skin response. Sure enough, as an elderly woman in the movie discovered what looks to be an intruder in her home, the sensors picked up quickened heartbeats and moisture on the finger tips - a pattern that went on to ebb and flow with the storyline.   The science doesn't stop with monitoring and processing the audience responses, though. Those responses are then used to shape the movie: the music score and even the plot. Thus the film content, even the ending, varies according to the viewers' collective emotional response.  So where is all this leading? As the wired-in audience members in Austin heard at the beginning of Unsound: "We can't read your brain exactly, but we can read your heart."


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FROM TC: This article is not specifically about the arts' use of social media, but can easily apply:


Commentary: 5 ways to measure the ROI of your social media efforts

Steve Strauss, USA TODAY, 3/13/11

Facebook and the like [have] become where people are making buying decisions. Via social media, they are getting recommendations from friends, seeing targeted ads, and researching businesses they learn of.  So yes, because you need to go to where the eyeballs are, you need to be on social media, but you also have to be equally sure that you are getting a bang for your buck and time.  Here's how to tell:

1. The bottom line:  The real danger with social media is that it is very easy to get sucked into it, to find yourself spending a lot of time with it because it's fun and engrossing, and then telling yourself that it's necessary. .. when really maybe it's not because it's not paying off financially. If you are not making more money, you are doing something wrong.

2. Increased analytics: The Mobile Marketing Association [says] measuring success requires a new sort of analysis, which includes: The number of eyeballs, shakes and finger swipes. The number of blogs, articles, tweets and diggs. The number of acquisitions, conversions, calls, responses or purchases. Total basket size, consumer recall, loyalty and recommendations.

3. Increased traffic:  Of course, traffic can mean all sorts of things: It can be more people reading your blog, more hits on your website, more people shopping in your e-store, or more people coming into the physical store. Here are a few ways to measure your online traffic:

Google Analytics: the standard for tracking traffic, keywords, incoming links, sites, etc.

Wordpress: If you use Wordpress for your site, their dashboard is another great tool.

TweetMeme: If you have re-tweet button on your site, TweetMeme is very helpful.

4. More relationships: There are a lot of benefits to getting a lot of new online friends and followers.  But the real value, I suggest, is that you can actually meet and get to do business with people you would not otherwise normally meet. The people who really make money with social media and who have figured out how to use it to grow their business in fact use it to meet and create relationships.

5. Better brand awareness: Another valuable benefit is that more people will learn of your business. Having a lot of fans and followers, or having your tweets re-tweeted, increases brand awareness. Social networking, when done right, builds your brand. 

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