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January 15, 2009


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Adam Thurman


"You. Will. Die." Exactly. Couldn't be better said.

Hopefully that guy you mentioned is just underestimating how often his audience is online. Probably because his audience is older. Most studies indicate that older individuals do spend some time online.

Or maybe his audience really isn't on line . . . in which case he is screwed

Rob Kozlowski

I know exactly one living person who isn't online in some capacity and she's well into her 80's, was part of my parents' theater company in the 60's, knows what the hell is going on and has never needed the arts media to know what to see.

The good old days of arts coverage are gone, but it's not like this is a *sudden* transition or anything. Even the New York Times has reduced theater coverage. We'll never see the likes of George Jean Nathan or Robert Benchley in print again, but it doesn't mean they can't exist online. This is just change, and those who can't adapt to it, yes, will die. It'll suck, sure, but hell, it sucked that Pickford and Fairbanks couldn't make the transition to talking pictures and the movies survived.


I was bummed I couldn't make this (we had a show Thursday)- even more so now because it sounds like it was really useful. Though we're all aware (and increasingly nervous about) the shrinking of arts journalism in this country and in Chicago in particular- I think the internet's effect has been that there are more voices, but fewer that matter- it can be difficult to see what the alternative strategies for promoting a show in this new landscape need to be. Part of the problem is the more strapped-for-cash companies among us have come to rely on press coverage as their sole means of marketing a show, since PR is usually free, but most other means of marketing and advertising are expensive. To survive now does a company need to be using cutting edge technology? It used to be a company barely needed its own website- now we need to be on every social network, with ideally a company blog and someone Twittering periodically (and a free podcast wouldn't hurt). Especially for a small company, that's an awful lot of content to be generating on top of the company's core business (i.e., doing plays), so I do understand the reluctance to adopt such techniques. Has the League or anyone ever offered a workshop on net marketing? I mean really basic stuff- like, "Here's Facebook. Here's how some companies have used it successfully. Here's how you use Twitter. This workshop is titled "HTML for small theatres", etc...I think some companies aren't even aware of the existence of the boats they're missing.


I don't know that it's so much a matter of audience's not being online at all as it is a matter of their not being particularly e-literate. And it isn't just audiences.

As a 30-year-old communications professional focused in the NPO arts sector, I feel sandwiched between clear generation gaps. My older colleagues, who often comprise the directors of departments and organizations are clearly not as e-literate as I am, which often leads to a disconnect between our perspectives on the value of various media. It can be wildly frustrating when one's boss just doesn't understand the value of blogs and other e-media opportunities.

The best example of this came during the blogging panel at last summer's Community Media Workshop conference. Many PR professionals of an older generation couldn't wrap their heads around the new means of pitching, particularly to bloggers. People are slow to change and fight against having to give up the way they've operated for decades (faxed or mailed releases or pitches, for example).

(Another aspect of this that drives me batty is the general lack of computer literacy among, let's just say it, Baby Boomers at the height of their careers. It is a necessary skill for any professional to know how to open a tabbed browser, use Microsoft Office in its various incarnations, and function on a Mac. These are as fundamental a set of tools for professionals in 2009 as knowing how to write a succinct paragraph or speak well on the phone. If you don't have these skills, it should disqualify you from a high-placed position at the managerial level at any company or organization. I have personally worked under people who lack these skills.)

Of the other side of the gap, the interns and newly-minted aspiring professionals a half-generation younger than me, Sir Ken Robinson had this to say at a talk at Columbia College in December:

"I was saying to some student earlier today, when my daughter is online, she has maybe eight windows open. She’s instant messaging people, her cell phone is constantly ringing, she’s downloading music and the television's on in the background. I don’t think she’s doing any homework but she’s got an empire, I can assure you. But when I’m online I have one window open. And I’m thrilled with myself. 'Look! It’s my window. I’ve opened it myself!' These kids are living in a different state-hood. They are digital natives. They live in a different world. In many respects they communicate differently, their minds work differently. They run at a different pace. They think at multiple levels. It’s hard sometimes to even grasp the nature of this shift. I think this is one of the great levers into the future."

So yes, Kris, you are correct, an organization that can't adapt to evolutionary shifts in technology is doomed to extinction. I appreciated how Catey Sullivan and Sylvia Ewing addressed the questioner, but didn't concede ground on this point.

E-literacy is absolutely vital in virtually all aspects of professional life in 2009, and those who refuse to adapt (because it is a failure of will, not ability) will, and should, be left behind.


Do you know if transcripts were taken/will be available?

Bummed I couldn't make it.


Oh my god yes! There's nothing quite like the sensation of patiently explaining (repeatedly) to someone who makes four times your salary how to attach a file to an email in Outlook.

Kris Vire

Tony, it was recorded by WBEZ for their Chicago Amplified archive. Not sure how long it will take to go up there.

Heather Clark

Wow... An audience with 90% not online. I wonder how they arrived at that number, obviously survey monkey was not used to ask their audience.

I continue to be struck by the blinder's approach many theater companies are using in response to the shrinking of print media and changing marketing world.

Reading Don Hall's blog just underlined that point. The Tribune and Sun-Times are faced with shrinking word counts and are doing their best to continue running content that is interesting to their audience - not dictated by the numerous press releases they receive from companies hoping to get some free marketing support. I've found that I learn a lot just from talking to my regular ticket buyers in the lobby before and after the show. Figure out how they found your company and leverage that into a marketing campaign that adds new audience members with similar interests.

Joseph Fosco

The technological and cultural shifts which are now dramatically impacting media are impacting every type of organization. Theatre and the arts are not exempt. Media is just taking some of the most dramatic and obvious hits right now.

It is not possible to continue doing the same thing you have always done and just attempt to move it to the web. What is occurring is an entirely different way of thinking - as the above quote from Sir Ken Robinson describes.

As I have stated elsewhere, arts organizations that are unwilling to make changes of the magnitude that are being demanded of the media will see their relevance decline and even their eventual collapse.


Cool. Thanks for the heads up Kris.

ps. Good luck getting to print tonight. That sounds like a herculean feat, even in comparison to putting out a weekly in general.

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  • Kris Vire
    I write about theater for Time Out Chicago. I write more about it here.

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