Digital Culture: How arts and cultural organisations in England use technology
IssueDigital technologies and the arts
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.