Learn from the best.

If you look at some of the most successful digital organisations, the public do a lot of the work. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Wordpress, ebay, even Google owe their positions to the number of people using them and stocking them with content. While allowing the end user to drive the growth is risky – you don’t know in advance what will turn up – it’s free and endlessly transforming and thus keeps the whole thing interesting. You can’t pay enough people to duplicate a similar effect artificially.

Bloggers, vloggers, artists, writers, activists and almost everyone loves to see their contribution to the world. They crave views and votes and in turn want to reward others by voting. They want to express what something means to them, or doesn’t. They want to agree or not. Existing culture is just a spring board for them to create their own. Not only does this widen the appeal of existing culture, it generates the culture of tomorrow. A smart system would acquire the cream of the new crop for the nation and also help link creators with buyers. Everybody wins.

Can a government tap into this phenomenon? As the big organisations have found, bad stuff comes along with the good and it’s hard and expensive to manage. To a certain extent you can get the public to police the system by reporting problematic content but it’s not perfect, with over and under reporting. Big organisations of course make money from advertising and so can afford to police themselves, even if they do a poor job of it. It’s easier for them to shrug off the responsibility.

The public don’t like paying for digital content unless it’s of ultra high quality (eg films). They are more likely to pay a subscription for continuous access than one off purchases (eg BBC shop found that people didn’t want to pay a fee per favourite show but on Netflix they will pay a larger monthly fee for stuff that includes both preferred and unwanted shows). Is this endeavour meant to be self funding or make a profit? Even if it is only to pay for itself, how will it generate an income? How will it help support the reality based institutions? While it’s a positive thing to widen access to our culture, it’s not a good idea to sideline the existing network and at the same time kill tourism. Consider a way people can gain online benefit by visiting an exhibition in the real world. Remembering that not everyone lives near London. Without finding some form of income stream, it will be very hard to maintain.

The next step is to use other successful platforms to generate an audience. People like to copy and link to things and follow other’s recommendations. If they can’t make content part of their own space (eg blog), they look once (if you’re lucky) and forget about it. People like to find relevant content easily. Most organisations create search databases but the dedicated search engines usually do it better. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. The search engines are very good at searching and have an existing customer base. There are tricks to get content noticed – use them.

Probably the only limit is how far you want to go to generate an enthusiastic audience. How brave are you in letting the public decide how they want to use culture?

Why the contribution is important

It’s important to learn from those who know the digital market best. Digital endeavours that have tried to prescribe how the public should engage have failed to generate large audiences and eventually fall by the wayside. The best find what works and build on it.

by helenn on July 28, 2017 at 10:56AM

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