New study updates 2009 findings on how arts patrons use their mobile devices

Ron Evans, Group of Minds website, 12/11/12

What are arts patrons doing with their mobile devices?  

What are their feelings about mobile devices at arts and cultural events?  

What devices are they using, and what information do they want? 


In 2009, Arts Council Silicon Valley commissioned Group of Minds to research the mobile preferences of arts patrons. A sample of 45,000 patrons were contacted via email selected from the half-price ticket email lists in six U.S. cities. In September 2012, Group of Minds independently commissioned an update of the research [using the same parameters of the 2009 study] with a goal of measuring changes over the previous 3 years. The analysis shows arts patrons have made large gains of interest in and acceptance of mobile devices as preparatory, participatory, and logistical companions to the arts experience. One recommendation is that arts organizations need to program different experiences based on different patron technology preferences. So, we've made the report available in two formats:


Option 1: Download the full-color report (PDF, 6 pages) on your desktop computer


Option 2: Read a mobile-friendly version of the report on your smart phone (HTML)


FROM TC: What follows is an excerpt from the analysis of the 2012 survey responses:

  • In 2009, approximately 50% of respondents said, "I don't have a smart phone, and I'm not interested in getting one." That number has dropped to 21% in 2012.
  • 70% of respondents said they would use their phone to look up arts events if given the opportunity, up from 45% in 2009; 19% said they had visited an arts group's Facebook or Twitter channel via their phones.
  • 16.5% are connecting via organizations' mobile websites vs. custom apps (2.4%), though the latter is expected to grow.
  • Location-based services such as Foursquare scored quite low -- just 5%. [However] when responses are filtered by age to show responses by patrons 18-35, this rate jumps to 18%. This hints at even more widespread use of mobile by younger audiences.
  • One of the most polarizing questions was "When you're at arts events, do you use your phone before, during, or after the performance?" Every category showed significant increased usage, such as use of the phone to take pictures going from 24% in 2009 to 50% in 2012, and use of Facebook rocketing from 10% in 2009 to 32% in 2012.
  • The differences in attitude became apparent when the open-ended answers were reviewed, especially around the idea of using mobile devices at performances. Some patrons absolutely hate the idea. Others took a more open-minded approach, with answers such as "I use Wikipedia to look up things related to the arts event."
  • The highest ranking responses did not involve artistic programming. They involved the need for event logistics information: directions, proximity of events and parking information with scores of 75%, 78%, and 79% respectively (all roughly a 25 point jump from 2009). These are factors that often contribute to patron dissatisfaction [and are] often overlooked as other engagement tactics are tried.
  • Two new answer choices provided in 2012 saw healthy levels of response: "Provide me with content to post on social media" (25%), and "Allow me to donate to the organization" (22%). This does not necessarily mean that if given a mobile app, 22% of an organization's audience will actually donate, as communicated preferences and actual behavior can be quite different. But it does indicate an inclination that, given the right emotional context, the option to donate could lead to the desired action.


Several action steps are recommended for arts organizations:

  • First, a mobile version of your website should be a top priority, and the existence of this new informational channel should be frequently communicated to the patrons. If your website is based on a content management system such as Wordpress, Joomla, or Drupal, adding a mobile version to your site is usually as easy as downloading a free plugin and installing it.
  • Second, arts organizations need to be clear and detailed when asking patrons to spread information about the organization on social channels. Patrons should be told when social media is OK and when it is not, and they should be given content for consumption at times approved for consumption. Communication of both the existence of the content and the benefits of engaging with it are key.
  • Third, arts organizations need to provide different types of experiences to encompass the variety of patron technology preferences. The benefits of engaging via mobile and the benefits of a "traditional experience" must be communicated. As an example, interview a "tweet seats" participant in your audience, and send it out to your list to build understanding.
  • Fourth, arts staff, who are arguably big consumers of the arts, need to be experimenting themselves with mobile at other arts events. By experimenting themselves, staff members will become more knowledgeable about the user experience their own patrons are having.

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Trendwatching: NEA challenged by artists working in new formats, small screens

Adam Powell, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership blog, 11/19/12

The National Endowment for the Arts is racing to keep up with artists who are creating in new formats and for smaller screens, according to speakers at a [recent] forum. And that means the agency must prepare to review programs and proposals in new ways. "One of the challenges all of us face is keeping up with what is going on," said Alyce Myatt, NEA's Director of Media Arts, adding that is due both to the proliferation of formats and to a greater volume of arts being created. But one challenge is the migration to cell phones. "It is what is happening now: everyone is on a small screen," explained Myatt, who said this has implications for artists and for those who fund the arts. "First and foremost [stories] have to be shorter. So how you make your work either shorter or episodic? There is a skill to that. It can be easier to make a 90-minute documentary than a 3-minute story." This also means NEA changed the demographics of its reviewers who recommend funding. "More and more young people are on our panels," said Patrice Walker Powell, NEA's Deputy Chairman for Programs and Partnership, [who] added more and more NEA proposals are "multidisciplinary," with artists submitting work in multiple formats.


Trendwatching: Cheap smartphones will be widespread by 2017, study says

Anita Li,, 12/12/12

Most smartphones are hefty investments. But a new study suggests that half of all smartphones will cost less than $150 in only a few years. Conducted by Informa, the study predicts the smartphone market will be split into two extremes: low-end devices and high-end devices, retailing for less than $150 and more than $250, respectively. Pricier phones, however, will find their market share shrinking from 85% of total smartphones sold in 2011 to 33% in 2017, the study says. Cheaper handsets will explode to 52% of total sold in 2017.

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