To find or not to find a new business model – thoughts from digicaparts

For various reasons I’ve been musing on digital stuff recently so forgive me if this starts as something of a stream of consciousness. And this particular blog comes hot on the heels of the Arts Council #digicaparts event at St Martins College of Arts in the rapidly rejuvenating Kings Cross.

A disembodied head (or was it a test card?)– in the form of @marcusromer via the wonders of Skype– introduced us to his five p’s which ran something like this:-
• Give yourself PERMISSION to experiment
• Find your PURPOSE or PASSION
• Choose your PLATFORM
• Encourage the PIRATES (I’ll come back to disruption but love the idea of a Pirate on an orgs board – complete with eye patch?))
• But above all PLAY

Now Marcus’ 5 P’s intrigued me as they reflected a diagram I’d been doodling around over the last few days. Mine doesn’t have a snappy title yet and is somewhat simplistic – but it’s my doodle about everything an arts organisation does on line should do one of these things (and hopefully more than one). In doodle form it looks a little like this…

I feel involved in the project, I can contribute, be part of the conversation, part of the team. I feel as though I’m going on the journey… I might even have co funded it through crowd fundraising schemes like Hen Norton’s We Did This
Even if I can’t get to the live experience I can have an experience – or perhaps I want to experience it again – or perhaps I want to try before I buy. The digital experience will be different but it’s still equally valid.
Adding Value
I can find out more either before I experience the event or after. Maybe its footage of rehearsals, backstage snippets, maybe it will enhance my understanding – whatever the key word is more.
Marketing or selling
You’ve got my interest so keep feeding it – take me on the journey with you. By sharing with me what you’re doing, what you’re up to I feel more engaged, more inclined to buy.

As you can see it’s terribly over simplified so I’d love feedback on what I’ve missed or indeed what I’ve got wrong. I’m ashamed to say the diagram isn’t based on massive amounts of research or indeed in-depth analysis. In fact it illustrates a story which isn’t really connected to the arts – but has certainly influenced my thinking and own digital engagement but that’s for another blog (which is here)

Back to #digicaparts
Marcus’ first P (give yourself permission) reflected an earlier presentation from the driven and very dynamic Nicole Yershon (director of Innovative Solutions at Ogilvy (UK)) @nicoleyershon. Simple stuff really – it’s about problem solving. Hey ho well we know that – but in order to problem solve digitally you need (she argues) three things:-
– You need to understand the technology
– You need to be brave, to be bold, to be ridiculous even
– You need to be prepared to experiment – push it until it breaks (be risk tolerant – accept the inevitability of failure!)

[Later an interesting debate breaks out on line – @janefinnis from the platform declares that all arts organisations should forget apps and focus on making sure their web sites were mobile friendly. @martin_franklin (digital media manager at South Hill Park) immediately retorted via twitter ‘web will always be a poor experience on mobile – use an app to deliver a very specific web function like booking. Quick as a flash Ash Mann (@biglittlethings)’unfortunately cost of an app and diversity of OS (operating system) means that it’s not a viable solution for many (most) orgs. It’s worth checking out their ensuing conversation . Rather does go to underline Nicole’s first point – how many arts orgs really know and understand what’s out there – how many of us have the opportunity to really ‘play’ – exactly why I asked Nicole if I can come and visit the lab!]

Digital is disruptive

Nicole also was clear about the fact that digital is disruptive (you only need to look at the film and music industries to see that – as later Mel Norman (@melmediasauce) touched upon). Not everyone is gonna like it, not everyone is going to care, and lots of people are going to put barriers in the way, say that something is impossible. You have to prove by doing.

And that (says Nicole) is why it’s not just about playing – it’s important to attach that play, that learning, that inspiration to something practical

But what about live?
Virtually all of the speakers were clear that the real / live experience remained the primary thing. (‘It’s an illusion that digital replaces the live experience’)Digital becomes a tool to create product for and reach out to audiences. And I’d also argue a tool to lead people towards the live experience.

It comes back (I think) to that idea of the digital experience being a different experience to the live experience – different but equally valid. Suspect I’ll be blogging about that later!

So why go digital
Whilst many of the speakers pointed to both the technological and market reasons for going digital Marcus Romer touched on a broader reason for engagement with the digital agenda echoing my own views. ‘With public funding comes a great responsibility’ – for funded organisations there is a duty to reach as broad an audience as possible. For many potential audiences location and time are barriers and digital provides a means of providing an experience, and as important making it available for free. This is not simply just about live streaming stuff it could be about providing parallel experiences or even radically different ones. What those parallel experiences and radically different ones are comes back (I think) to two things eluded to earlier PLAY and integrating the digital experience into an organisations thinking.

Tackling the digital disruption
The afternoon touched in different ways on how to tackle the disruption of digital – and be able to turn it into a positive advantage. Part of the answer might be found in Romer’s 5 P’s, part in embedding digital thinking into an organisations plan. But a very strong theme also began to emerge later in the day – one about collaboration. @janefinnis asked why doesn’t one arts organisation feature content from another (and not just links on the links page). It’s a dam good question! She also encouraged people to be brand unobsessed – if there’s distribution partners (like the BBC, the Guardian et al) don’t get het up about labelling the content – get the information out there. It’s impossible to understand everything which is going on out there right now (whose the in house expert on html 5 for example? ( so collaborating with others who do makes sense (earlier Romer had talked about how many of the best people work outside organisations – and it’s an organisations role to harness that talent)
It’s interesting that that twitter conversation (app v mobile web enabled) I mentioned earlier ended highlighting the potential of collaboration leading to a flurry of comments on this blog

Oh – and of course – get a pirate on your board.

Do we need new business models

‘Great business models can reshape industries and drive spectacular growth. Yet many companies find business-model innovation difficult. Managers don’t understand their existing model enough to know when it needs changing – or importantly how to change it’
(Mark Johnson, Clay Christensen & Henning Kagerman via Harvard Business Review, quoted by @melmediasauce)

So do we need a new business model? Marcus Romer certainly thinks so. He quoted Frank Rose ‘digital is rewriting all the rules …when something that fundamental is happening the worst thing is to cling onto old models’. Echoing Nicole who talked about the problems of ‘inherited business plans’ But @janefinnis disagreed. The old business models aren’t dead rather digital provides new ways to provide value, engagement and revenue. It provides new ways for distribution, for marketing, for reaching audiences and users. The answer probably lies inbetween – and that is often one of the arts sectors strength – occupying the spaces inbetween.

Summing Up
Michael Nutley the events chair summed up the afternoon with his three key themes:-

Digital can not be separate – it’s part of what we do (digital in service of the mission – the passion bit of the P’s)

Digital is about responding to users (providing a new way to engage, new opportunities, potential new revenue streams, and new ways of doing things)

And it’s about is collaboration

A useful afternoon which will take a while to really settle and bear fruit.

Useful links
Speaker presentations etc here
How to evaluate online success – here
Business models here – (via @melmediasauce) and the network is here
The digicaparts blog –here
The ofcom research on mobile phone useage – here
Difference between audio guides and audio descriptive guides (via @vocaleyes) see here

Some interesting soundbites
5.9 billion mobile subscribers / 8 trillion text messages sent last year / web traffic of the top 40 arts organisations against all uk web traffic 0.04% / web traffic termed ‘porn’ of all web traffic = 12% / 10% of worlds population own a smart phone / if facebook were a country it would be the third largest country in the world


4 thoughts on “To find or not to find a new business model – thoughts from digicaparts

  1. Pingback: Matthew Linley’s Blog

  2. Pingback: digicaparts - emerging business models for the digital environment - Chris Unitt's blog

  3. Pingback: Digital play « Matthew Linley’s Blog

  4. Pingback: Clay pots, steam boats and a digital future « Matthew Linley’s Blog

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