How To Connect With New Media: Part 1

New Media: who they are and where to find them.

This installment is designed to help establish a collective understanding of what constitutes new media which can be used to move forward. Once that straightforward task is completed we’ll examine how to begin categorizing new media outlets in a way that will benefit your organization best…

New media, defined.

Who or what exactly is new media? Perhaps the best place to begin is by defining what mew media isn’t. Traditional media outlets include the big four: radio, television, newspapers, and magazines. Although new media outlets encompass dozens of formats, we will concentrate on those which have the most practicality when it comes to building relationships. For example, video games are a form of new media but there is little opportunity to create a two-way relationship with that particular platform. Instead, the forms of new media we will focus on include most forms of all computer-enhanced communication, most of which contain inherent interactive qualities that encourage author and reader to dynamically relate to each other.

Examples include:

  • Blogs
  • Discussion boards
  • Podcasting (audio and visual)
  • Social networking websites
  • Wikis

Undoubtedly, the predominant form of new media that holds the greatest impact for performing arts organizations is blogging. This is due in large part because the blogging platform is very flexible and can be maintained by a single individual. Conversely, social networking websites such as Facebook, My Space, and Meetup require staffs of full time employees to maintain the site and because of this, there is not as much variety as there is among bloggers. The blogging platform’s chronological driven nature and comment-based interaction makes it an excellent device for “current event” oriented content. Interestingly enough, the blogging platform has become so user friendly its impact is limited only by the talent of the
author. As a result, the fastest growing culture oriented segment of new media is blogging. Consequently, many traditional media outlets have incorporated blogs in their other online offerings in an effort to remain connected to their readership.

Podcasting, both audio and video, is a format that retains the same flexibility as written blogging but isn’t as user friendly, as a result, they are not as common. At the same time, due to advancements in blogging/podcast providers, the formats are growing increasing intertwined. Wikis function more like free form social networking websites. They are collaborative in nature, such as Wikipedia, and although content is entirely user driven they lack the same sort of individual personality as blogs and podcasts. Even though wikis lack the sort of interactive discussion elements found in blogs, podcasts, and social networks they are a wonderful platform for reference oriented material (something that is ingrained into many aspects of classical music).

Finally, the discussion board format predates all of the other forms of new media covered here. Discussion boards retain the same interactive components as blogs but they do have the commentary oriented features of blogs. Consequently, discussion boards lack the ability to develop a distinct personality and commentary although their format facilitates much longer discussions than most blogging platforms.

Identifying local, national, and international new media sources.

Unfortunately, there is no universal compendium of culture bloggers that marketing professional can reference (although the appendix to this series will include some methods you can use to start finding culture based new media outlets throughout the world). There are no mailing lists (if anyone tries to sell you one, run!) and since they don’t function on traditional subscription models or have broadcast limitations, the distinction between local, national, and international oriented blogs is sometimes fuzzy.

Fortunately, the vast majority of new media sources on related topics form lose associations in the form of links (blogs typically call them blogrolls). For example, Adaptistration maintains a blogroll that currently lists more than 100 culture oriented new media outlets (mostly blogs) and is updated on a regular basis.

By far, the vast majority of culture oriented new media outlets are blogs and most of those are islands unto themselves, meaning they operate as independent entities with single authors. These authors are not paid to generate content although most sell dedicated advertisement space (which your organization can purchase) and/or feature referral advertisements. In addition to these single-author outlets, there are blogging consortiums such as Inside The Arts, Sequenza 21, and AJ Blog Central which features several authors who write about subsets of related topics. Additionally, many traditional media outlets have adopted the blogging platform to offer additional opportunities for their critics and culture reporters to publish content.

It isn’t a stretch to compare the new media environment to the Wild West. In this environment, readers are attracted by the quality of content, subject material, and author’s personality. Consequently, traditional media outlets have no real advantage over their newer counterparts in efforts to attract readers and in some cases you’ll find traditional outlet writers publishing independent content while simultaneously producing new media content for their employer.

A new media outlet’s impact can be measured in a number of ways, most of which depend on the outlet’s topic. For example, a new media outlet which focuses strictly on opera events in Chicago will likely have a smaller target audience than an outlet with a generic topic of current opera news from around the world, which has a higher degree of national and international appeal. Furthermore, average daily traffic is another common benchmark used by new media outlets to measure impact; however, be cautious not get lulled into believing that numbers alone is the single, best method for determining impact.

Look at the two examples from the previous paragraph. The Chicago oriented, strict topic outlet may receive 100 readers per day whereas the internationally oriented, generic topic outlet may receive 600 readers per day. If you look at where those 400 readers live, it is entirely possible that this outlet has fewer Chicago based readers than the outlet with 1/6 of the daily readers.

Ultimately, whether or not establishing a relationship with either outlet has value to your organization depends entirely on who you are and what you’re looking for. Odds are both outlets will have varying levels of value depending on what sort of exposure your organization is looking for with any given topic.

It pays to begin dividing up new media outlets based on subject material, author’s location, readership, and frequency of publications. For example, Adaptistration is about the orchestra business (mostly North American), is located in Chicago, has more than 400 readers per day (mostly in North America), and publishes every weekday. Once this is completed, you’ll have a much easier time creating targeted mailing lists you can use to send out announcements, personal messages, etc. (more on this in an upcoming
installment).

For example, let’s say you’re a marketing manager for a professional orchestra located in central Texas and your organization just finished negotiating a new recording agreement with your musicians for an upcoming series of CDs which contains some unique provisions. Your categorized new media list will allow you to notify exactly the right outlets which are mostly likely to be interested in this news. In this case you’re looking for outlets which focus on musician, labor, or business subjects that have both a
local and national audience. Readership and publication schedule are less important since the news is niche-based and isn’t time sensitive.

Here’s another example. Let’s say that same orchestra is planning a three concert tour of the Mid-Atlantic area and will feature an all Mahler program. In this case, you’ll want to notify any new media outlets which focus on events in your city, the cities you’re scheduled to perform, as well as those outlets which specialize in Mahler or late 19th Century chromatic composers (yes, there are several outlets which do exactly that).

Perhaps your orchestra features a well-known, kick-ass low brass section. You’ll want to look for any trombone and tuba oriented outlets as well (tip: instrument oriented outlets have among the largest daily readership of most new media outlets).

Certainly, everyone who dives into the world of new media will expand on the ideas from this example with a little practice. There are likely more than a few marketing professionals out there right now wondering why they shouldn’t simply send a standard press release out to every new media contact they have on file for each event/issue they want to promote; after all, the shotgun approach has worked with traditional media outlets. All things being equal, that approach would make sense, unfortunately, things in the new media
environment are far from equal and you’ll learn why in the next installment.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “How To Connect With New Media: Part 1”

  1. Drew,

    It’s great you’re writing this series on new media for the performing arts.

    A few points:

    “Undoubtedly, the predominant form of new media that holds the greatest impact for performing arts organizations is blogging.”

    I don’t think the above is necessarily the case. Many dancers and dance companies make use of social networking sites, primarily Facebook and MySpace, and do not use blogs to reach their target audience. They may encourage dance bloggers to cover their efforts, but that is only a small part of their marketing activity.

    “Conversely, social networking websites such as Facebook, My Space, and Meetup require staffs of full time employees to maintain the site and because of this, there is not as much variety as there is among bloggers.”

    I don’t think that the above is accurate. One person can manage a social networking page or profile and associated groups/events, in the case of Facebook. Although it’s nice to have multiple people manage the process.

    “It isn’t a stretch to compare the new media environment to the Wild West.”

    Why do you say this? Despite all the criticisms about bloggers, the truth is that there are a good number of independent bloggers who cover the arts with passion and commitment and a high-level of integrity. If anything, the collective voice provides balance to the traditional media, which often features a limited number of “voices,” that sometimes receive more recognition and value than they deserve.

  2. As I develop my blog, I get an increasing number of pitches from various individuals and organizations. While I am honored to be the recipient of all this attention, it is important to keep in mind how to approach a blogger, know their niche, and demonstrate intelligence, professionalism, and courtesy in the process.

    I can think of no better resource in this respect than Darren Rowse’s 21 Tips on how to pitch to bloggers. Here’s the url:

    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/10/30/how-to-pitch-to-bloggers-21-tips/

    If you can approach the right blogger in the right niche and make contact appropriately, you can not only develop a long-term working relationship, but get the word out on a series, label, product, or service as well.

    Thanks for pointing out Darren’s tips, I wholeheartedly agree that they are very helpful and as everyone will see in upcoming installments, how to approach new media outlets, press releases, etc. will all be covered. ~ Drew McManus

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