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Arts organisations neglect digital due to lack of finances and staff, report claims

The Digital Culture Survey 2017 showed cultural organisations are doing a smaller range of activities with digital technology. Photo: Shutterstock The Digital Culture Survey 2017 showed cultural organisations are doing a smaller range of activities with digital technology. Photo: Shutterstock
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Arts organisations are becoming less experimental and more focused with their use of digital technology, a survey has revealed.

The Digital Culture Survey 2017 by Arts Council England and innovation foundation Nesta examined how 1,424 arts and culture organisations in England, including 326 theatre organisations, use digital technology.

Francis Runacres, ‎executive director for enterprise and innovation at ACE, said the results showed cultural organisations are doing a smaller range of activities with digital technology but achieving greater levels of impact by becoming more focused.

A third (30%) of the sample who identified themselves as being experimental and ‘risk-taker’ organisations were more likely to report higher levels of positive impact from using digital, particularly in creative output and the distribution and exhibition of their content and work.

Many respondents believed their organisation was being held back in achieving its digital aspirations by lack of funds (62% of organisations) and lack of staff time (55% of organisations).

Runacres said: “We’re supporting digital change and innovation across the arts and cultural sector in a number of ways. For example, between 2018 and 2022, all national portfolio organisations that receive more than £250,000 a year from us will be required to have digital policies and plans showing how they will use digital to support all areas of their business. This will help them reach more people, improve their use of data and deliver better value for the public.”

Hasan Bakhshi, executive director, creative economy and data analytics at Nesta, added: “One of the robust findings across all four years is that organisations that experiment with technology are the ones that see the greatest impacts. It is of some concern therefore that proportionally fewer organisations this year say they are experimenting with digital technology.”

The survey also revealed that theatre organisations consider marketing to be the area in which digital is most essential, with 96% seeing digital as important to this activity.

Compared with the rest of the sector, theatre organisations are more likely to engage in email marketing and sell tickets online than other organisations, however they are less likely than the culture sector as a whole to sell other products and merchandise online.

There has also been a significant rise in the number of theatre organisations engaging in live-streaming since 2013, and a significant decline in those publishing content onto their own platforms and maintaining a blog.

The data also shows that theatres have significantly improved their mobile presence, with 71% using a mobile-optimised web presence compared with just 24% in 2013.

Other key findings:

  • Theatre organisations each use on average 4.4 social media platforms compared with 4.1 for the sector as a whole
  • 95% of theatres use Facebook and 94% are on Twitter
  • The percentage of theatre organisations on Instagram has increased from 9% in 2013 to 48%
  • 67% of theatre organisations report an overall major or fairly major positive impact on achieving their mission from using digital




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