Arts Research Monitor: Digital Technologies and the Arts

In this issue of Hill Strategies' Arts Research Monitor: A focus on the application of digital technologies in the arts, including reports on the use of digital technologies by arts and culture organizations, online cultural consumption by Canadians 65 and older, and trends in Canadians’ communications habits.

Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies

Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 4, 2013

Authors: Kristin Thomson, Kristen Purcell, and Lee Rainie

Between May and July 2012, the Pew Internet and American Life Project surveyed 1,258 arts organizations that had received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts between 2007 and 2011. The survey results cover the use, benefits, and challenges of digital technologies for American arts organizations.

Regarding technology use, arts organizations most commonly have a website (99% of surveyed organizations) and a social media presence (97%). On the other hand, only 27% of organizations host podcasts, while 22% host webinars or educational / instructional content. Mobile apps are not yet common: “only a handful of arts organizations have developed apps to serve their mission”.

Digital technologies are changing the frontiers of art: 77% of respondents agreed with the statement that digital technologies have “played a major role in broadening the boundaries of what is considered art”.

Regarding the importance of the internet, at least nine out of ten responding organizations indicated that the internet is important for:

  • Promoting the arts (96%).
  • Increasing audience engagement (also 96%).
  • Using their organization's resources more efficiently (92%).
  • Identifying sources of funding (91%).
  • Gathering research and data for grant applications (90%). 

On the subject of public engagement, very large majorities of respondents agreed that “the internet has increased engagement in the arts by providing a public platform through which more people can share their work” (92%) and “because of the internet and digital technologies, the arts audience is more diverse than it was in the past” (83%).

Social media tools have substantial impacts on arts organizations’ work, including helping organizations clarify what they do and communicate how people can engage with their mission. Social media also help organizations communicate with alumni, patrons, and audiences (and help these groups of individuals communicate among themselves).

However, the survey also found that digital technologies have their limitations and drawbacks:

  • 74% of respondents said that it is somewhat or very true that their organization does “not have the staff or resources to use social media effectively”.
  • 74% agreed that “the internet and related technologies have created an expectation among some audiences that all digital content should be free”.
  • 71% agreed that “digital distractions such as ringing cell phones and audience member texting are a significant disruption to live performances”. 


Digital Culture: How arts and cultural organisations in England use technology

Arts Council England / Arts & Humanities Research Council / Nesta, September 2013

This survey of 891 English arts and culture organizations, conducted in the summer of 2013, examines the organizations’ digital activities, impacts of digital technologies, and the barriers to further digital utilization. This is the baseline year of a three-year longitudinal study.

Regarding technology use, the vast majority of English cultural organizations have their own branded website (92%) and a social media presence (90%). On average, English cultural organizations are active on “four social media platforms, with Facebook and Twitter being the most common”. In addition, 81% of responding organizations distribute newsletters via email.

A majority of English cultural organizations view digital technologies as important or essential to their:

  • Marketing (92%).
  • Preserving and archiving (84%).
  • Operations (79%).
  • Creation (64%).
  • Distribution and exhibition (61%). 

In terms of revenue generation, only 35% of cultural organizations view digital technologies as being important or essential to their revenue streams. About one-third of organizations sell products or merchandise online (36%), and a similar proportion accept donations online (35%). 

In terms of their own operations, 60% of respondents report that digital technologies have a major positive impact on their ability to effectively fulfill their mission. Audience development and engagement is an area of particularly strong impact. English cultural organizations report that their use of the internet and digital technologies has a major positive impact on their ability to:

  • Reach a bigger audience (51%).
  • Engage more extensively with their existing audience (47%).
  • Boost attendance at events and/or exhibitions (35%).
  • Reach an international audience to a greater extent than before (33%).
  • Reach a more diverse audience (32%).
  • Understand their audience and what audience members say about their organization (30%).
  • Reach a younger audience (26%). 

Only about one in every nine organizations (11%) indicate that their use of the internet and digital technologies has a major positive impact on revenues. There are discipline-based differences in this statistic, as 32% of literary organizations and 31% of performing arts venues report a major positive impact. On the other hand, only 3% of museums report that digital technologies have a major positive impact on revenues. In fact, museums are less likely than other types of organizations to report that the internet and digital technologies are having major positive impacts in all of the above areas. 

Regarding the limits of the arts and culture, 79% of survey respondents agree that “the internet and digital technologies have played a major role in broadening the boundaries of what is considered art and culture”.

For many cultural organizations, important barriers to further digital implementation include a lack of staff time (68%), limited budgets (also 68%), and limited external funding opportunities (61%). Other challenges relate to skills deficiencies within arts organizations, including data analysis (41%), database or customer relationship management (41%), software development (40%), legal knowledge and advice regarding intellectual property (40%), and user interface design (39%).

The report labels the 10% of cultural organizations that have embraced digital technologies most wholeheartedly as the “cultural digirati”. These organizations reach larger digital audiences and “are more likely to report positive impacts from technology compared with the rest of the sector”. They are also “making greater use of a wide range of resources for advice and ideas, are more open to experimentation, and have digital skills spread throughout their organisation rather than concentrated in one area”. These organizations are over three times more likely than others to say that digital technologies have a major impact on their revenues and their profitability.


Consumption of culture by older Canadians on the Internet

Statistics Canada (Insights on Canadian Society), January 2013

Author: Mary K. Allen 

This article, based on the 2010 General Social Survey and the 2010 Canadian Internet Use Survey, finds that there is still a substantial gap in online media consumption between younger Canadians and those 65 or older in terms of internet use, music downloading, and movie or video watching.

The article reports that “older Canadians increased their Internet usage markedly over the 2000s, but remained less likely to use the Internet than younger age groups.” The 2010 General Social Survey found that 60% of Canadians between 65 and 74 years of age had used the internet during the previous month, while almost all Canadians between 15 and 24 had done so.

Music downloading is becoming more popular among all Canadians but remains much more common for younger Canadians than older age groups. The same 2010 survey found that 87% of Canadians between 15 and 24 years of age listen to downloaded music at least once a week, compared with only 10% of Canadians between 65 and 74. Eighty percent of those between 65 and 74 still rely on traditional music formats, such as CDs.

Viewing TV, movies, or video clips online is much more common for Canadians between 18 and 24 (almost 80%) than for those 65 and over (about 10%), according to a 2010 survey of Canadians’ internet use. 

Canadians between 65 and 74 years of age are more likely to read conventional books than younger Canadians. In theory, e-books might be an area where older Canadians do adopt newer technologies in rates that are similar to younger residents. Unfortunately, “Statistics Canada does not currently collect the data to gauge the online consumption of e-books”.


Communications Monitoring Report (2013)

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, September 2013

This report highlights key statistics on communications in Canada, based on a number of different sources. In 2012, Canadian households spent an average of $185 per month on communications services, including wireline, wireless, TV, and internet communications. Wireless is the most common service (44% of all connections), followed by TV (19%), wireline phones (also 19%), and internet services (18%).

The report indicates that Canadians in English-language markets have reduced their consumption of Canadian TV services, which now have an 86% share of viewing, down from 88% in 2009-10. In French-language markets, residents almost exclusively watch Canadian TV services (98.6% in 2011-12).

Regarding communications services in 2012:

  • 86% of households subscribed to a cable or satellite television service.
  • 78% subscribed to high-speed Internet service.
  • 81% of Canadians subscribed to a wireless service. About one-half of these wireless communications (52%) were made using smartphones, tablets or other advanced handheld devices to communicate.
  • Over 55% of Canadians read online news.
  • Over 20% watched Internet TV on their landline or mobile devices. 

The report notes that high-speed broadband internet service (minimum 5Mbps) is available to 94% of Canadian households.

The number of payphones continues to decline. Recently, the number of payphones decreased from 5.4 per 1,000 households in 2011 to 5.1 in 2012.

The report provides a profile of revenues in the communications sector. Total revenues were $60.7 billion in 2012, with five large companies accounting for 82% of total revenues (about $50 billion). Telecommunications services accounted for $43.9 billion in revenues, or 72% of the communications sector total. The other $16.8 billion in revenues went toward broadcasting services.


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