Commentary: Subscription model is not dead, merely hibernating

Amelia Northrup, TRG Arts, 4/20/12

How many times have you heard that subscriptions are dead? There [are] not a lot of people out there advocating for subscriptions. In fact most speak of abandoning it, or make conclusions based on reports that the number of arts subscribers in America is down. But is the subscription model really dead?  Subscriptions are thriving in industries outside of the arts. These businesses (from coffee to cosmetics) see subscription as the ticket to sustaining revenue. And it's making them successful. Entrepreneur declared subscription service startups "the hot new thing". Now it seems more businesses than ever are imitating what has made arts organizations successful for decades -- and what some in our field are preparing to throw away. Subscription may be hibernating, but not dead. It still thrives in the arts industry. When commitment to patron loyalty via subscription is made, big results follow. Organizations that have a "dead" or "failed" subscription program, more likely are seeing subscriber hibernation. Subscriptions are a BIG, irreplaceable part of most arts organizations' revenue. Subscribers represent guaranteed revenue and, yes, butts in seats. And more to the point, subscribers bring deeper loyalty and consequently larger value over their lifetime to an organization. Our firm's study consistently shows that more loyalty equals more revenue for arts organizations. Subscription speeds a patron's rise up the loyalty escalator. Entrepreneurs are choosing the subscription model to achieve sustainability at a time when challenges are great and margins for error are thin. Let's not throw out a model that works. Let's add these companies' experience to our industry's knowledge base and apply what we learn.


Commentary: Email is not dead -- and it's more effective than social media

Eugene Carr on his blog, Wired for Culture, 4/11/12

About a decade ago I started evangelizing e-mail marketing as a new, super-powerful marketing tool for organizations that sell tickets or memberships. It was tough slogging at the beginning, but what ultimately turned the tide was the evidence that when a patron opted-in to your mailing list they were giving you explicit permission for you to market to them. And when patrons give you their permission to market to them, open rates and response rates go up and so does your ROI. Year after year the power of the opt-in has proven true, and every new technology that has come along to displace e-mail marketing (podcasts, RSS, Facebook messages, etc.) hasn't done so. Recently, David Hallerman, eMarketer principal analyst and author of the new report, "The Lessons of Email: Using Digital Touchpoints for Customer Loyalty," states:

Email marketing has been around for a long time, so it might not have the same sizzle as newer, hotter marketing channels. But don't confuse lack of flash with lack of effectiveness. Consumers are more open to email messaging than most other digital marketing, and it still gets results.

What troubles me is that the driving goal for many arts marketers seems to have shifted away from "Join our mailing list" to "Like us on Facebook." I think it's a mistakeI'm all for social media. But the equation in social media is radically different from that of e-mail. Liking a Facebook page is not the same as an explicit opt-in to receiving marketing messages. Don't let today's fashion deter you. Data, research, and ROI should guide your thinking. Yes, please do all the social media you have time for. But when you need quantifiable results in a jiffy, go back and redouble your efforts in e-mail marketing.


Commentary: Arts blogging is not dead, it's become "more diverse"

Tim Mikulski, Americans for the Arts blog, 2/22/12

Although online pundits regularly declare blogging is dead, as Jason Calacanis did at a tech conference toward the end of December, blogging has simply become much more diverse. It's no longer necessary to write multi-paragraph posts, but instead services such as Tumblr make it easy for individuals to share shorter entries or snippets of text that often include photos and other multimedia. A weekly blog update (or more frequent if you can afford the time) that includes some shareable content is a useful way to drive traffic back from social channels to your website (and to establish yourself as an expert on a topic).


Commentary: Telemarketing is not dead -- yet - but Millennials will kill it

Rachael Wilkinson, Technology in the Arts blog, 3/2/12

One of the common pieces of wisdom is that telemarketing consistently works as a fundraising tool for nonprofit arts. I'm not saying random cold calls, but calling people who have funded you before, have a history with your organization and would likely donate again. [According to Guidestar research,] nearly one out of every five people will respond and donate to your organization calling and asking for money. As a Millennial consumer, I cannot fathom this. Millennials, who love to donate, have been raised in a society where everything is connected electronically. While relationships formed over the web can become as close and as intimate as the penpals of old, they take time. I think the telemarketing approach is dead to those arts organizations that wish to solicit donations from Millennials. My telephone is reserved for my parents and my grandma. I have had organizations, which I have supported in the past, call me on the phone and ask for donations. It never works. What I'm saying here is, if you're catering to a mature audience, use telemarketing. Statistically, it works. What I'm hoping you'll do is pay more attention to who gets what message. If you're reaching for the Millennials, those fun-loving young kids, maybe tweet them. Email them. Ask them when they attend your next party. For the love of art, though, do not call.


= = =


Commentary: Arts at a "dead end" when it comes to marketing messages

Trevor O'Donnell, on his blog "Marketing The Arts To Death", 3/15/12

When I got my first job at a regional theatre in the 1980s, marketing was mostly a shoot-from-the-hip endeavor that involved making educated guesses and dreaming up clever ideas for getting the word out. Things are a lot different now of course. Message delivery technology has evolved radically in the last 30 years and the arts have done a pretty good job of keeping up. I wish I could say the same for message development, but I can't. While message delivery was evolving, message development took an evolutionary detour and [wound] up at a dead end. If you look critically at most arts marketing messages, once you remove references to contemporary works, artists and venues, you'll find the fossilized remains of a language that was developed decades ago for an audience that no longer exists. Somehow, probably because nobody was trying to sell us message development technology, we let the most important part of our communications process - our persuasive language - become obsolete. So today, rather than developing fresh, contemporary, strategic messages to match our up-to-the-minute delivery vehicles, we use state-of-the-art technology to send the same antiquated, self congratulatory, non-strategic fluff that we've always sent. The mismatched trajectories of message delivery and message development over the last thirty years demonstrate with sad irony that the arts have done a truly impressive job of learning how to say the wrong things to the right people.

Please consider the environment before printing out this email.  Thanks.
YOU'VE COTT MAIL is a free service for professionals in the arts.  Emails are sent most weekdays. 
If you are not already on the distribution list and would like to sign up, please click here:

Join Our Mailing List      Follow me on Twitter     
Click here to view an archive of recent past editions of "You've Cott Mail."