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Let's Get Real and review the situation, with more digital events this month

Brighton Dome Studio
~  The Brighton Digital Festival is now well and truly over leaving behind a whole load of big data from which to learn.  However with so many interesting insights there is one more review I had to write and that is about Culture24's event Let's Get Real. Worth checking out as Culture24 have a couple more events coming up this month, so there are still ample opportunities to gain knowledge from the culture sector's digital experts.  

The event I attended took place last month and brought together inspirational talks, which gave specific examples of how to achieve big change within an organisation and why it should be done.  led by the dynamic Jane Finnis, Chief Executive of Culture24, Let's Get Real showed how, "to embrace the new reality of audience behaviour."

Let's Get Real 2013
This big, huge subject was approached in a series of sessions, which began with talks, from Time Out and Penguin; included a panel discussion with participants from Phase 2 of the Let's Get Real project as well as analysis of some cultural organisation's websites.  This combination hit the mark, as Karen Moore, Marketing Manager at People’s History Museum explains, “it gave me a lot to consider within my own organisation in terms of how we move things forward and improve our digital activities, engagement and evaluation.  One of the insights I took from the event was not to feel under pressure for us to sign up to every single social media tool but instead to consider what works best for us, our story and our collections."

The first speaker Ben Cordle, Senior Marketing Manager at Time Out began with a very honest look at how they had taken the bold move to change the Time Out model from news-stand sales to free distribution of this highly-regarded brand. 

Time Out knew they needed to transform themselves from a slightly old fashioned magazine into a more up to date and relevant brand in order preserve it.  They knew they had a loyal and vocal following but in order to grow, they also needed to find out who else was out there.  What had happened in the past was that the vocal nature of their subscribers had tended to drive the business.  By early 2000s print sales had gone into decline and although they were an iconic brand, they had started to see their audience shrink.  The website although large, was reliant on searches that were non-brand specific.  By 2011 they had decided to work out how to change this, become younger and become more relevant.  Their hypothesis was to make Time Out a free magazine, and instead of reaching their 50,000 loyal readership they sought to reach 100s of thousands of Londoners instead. 

To manage this they needed to ask a lot of questions, and so teamed up with CBS Outdoor who had the resources to reach out to an urban and socially active London base to direct some very practical questions.  What they discovered was that, for example only 19% of the new targeted audience wanted tv listings.  This allowed the team for change to successfully challenge the internal resistance that this radical move was manifesting.  The research also looked at association words in relation to the brand to assess how this new audience perceived it.  The results although positive led to a review of how 'entertaining' the magazine currently was.  The conclusions showed that people wanted an easy and exciting way to navigate the city of London.  Cordle explains, "by testing Londoners opinions and desires with a simple highly actionable survey we were able to satisfy the business that this change would work and it enabled us to move to the next stage of our research".  

As a result the magazine has become meritocratic, and moved from the attitude where the Senior Editor knows best and it doesn't matter what the masses think, to one where the Editor knows exactly what their readers think.  Follow up research after the implementation has also shown that 2/3 of their readers have actively done more because of picking up the magazine.  In addition, their digital traffic grew by 40% in the first couple of months and has continued to grow since, going from 3 million to 5 million users almost overnight and with current figures at about 6 million people. 

The next speaker, Charlotte Richards head of the Insight team at Penguin, began by describing how she sees analytics as a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing and no picture to work from.  She encouraged organisations to analyse data from 360 degrees and by doing so, use insight to complement ingenuity instead of replacing it.  Within Penguin her role is sponsored by the CEO and Finance Director, which has given her clout when meeting resistance to data sharing.

Let's Get Real - Phase 2
Moving swiftly onwards through the day, representatives from some of the 22 cultural organisations who have collaborated over the last 11 months in Phase 2 of the Let's Get Real project explained what they had gained from working together.  Phase 2 had explored what digital engagement could mean, allowing the participants space outside their normal working environments to learn and share with colleagues.  The aim of this project was to identify ways of improving audience reach for cultural organisations using the right digital media.  What they discovered was that analytics was no longer a reporting function but an important tool for understanding their audiences.  Andrew Lewis, Digital Content Delivery Manager at the Victoria and Albert Museum found this experience, "supportive to work with other people and protects my learning time." 

Finally here are some notes from the Crit Room to check out -

*  Make sure your site answers these fundamental questions - What is it / where am I and what is in it for me.

*  Make sure titles are clear to new visitors.

*  Remember - Top Left is where people look first.

*  Make use of storytelling on the front page.

*  Don't make everything on the front page of equal importance, have 'hero' content. 

*  A two minute video on the front page can seem very long. 

*  Consider dynamic links on the front page, for instance blog posts and twitter feed.

*  Be brave - kill content to prevent clutter and mess. 

*  Make it visually driven.

*  Filter jargon - Curators and other Professionals may be experts in their fields but content needs to be accessible.

*  Google Adwords - find out what language is being used.

*  Be aware that first person plural may give the impression of 'them' and 'us'. Ask whether this distances the web visitor from your organisation.

*  Use Google trends to create searchable sub headings.

With that said, I'll leave it to Matt Locke, Director of Storythings, and previously Head of Multiplatform Commissioning at Channel 4 to have the last word,  "I really do believe the Let's Get Real report is, not only for the culture sector but for broadcast and publishing, an excellent tool to help guide us through data." 

If you missed this, there are more WeAreCulture24 events coming up, including this month, Building Your Digital Identity on 18 October with digital engagement specialist Abhay Adhikari as well as, Planning a New Digital Project, Update or Rebuild? Digital Project Management with Carolyn Royston and Charlotte Sexton on 23 October 2013.

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