Can’t Bloggers Get A Little Love?

Doug Fox over at posted an intriguing piece on 6/17/08 about some frustrating events he recently encountered with the National Performing Arts Convention. In particular, Doug wrote about why he thought the convention "failed to embrace one of the most important elements of online communications: the transmission, evolution and sharing of ideas"…

I thought Doug captured what many conventioneers were feeling: a
lack of support for bloggers and a cloistered environment for the
handful of bloggers who were featured. Here’s a good snippet from
Doug’s post:

The purpose of NPAC is to create a shared vision and agenda
for the future of the performing arts. To build momentum for this
vision and to create large-scale buy-in and discussion, you need to
engage a large audience of passionate people who will discuss these
ideas and share their insights with others on an on-going, long-term

Yet, the organizers of NPAC made no effort to reach out to the
thousands of arts bloggers, especially the hundreds, maybe thousands of
performing arts bloggers. (The performing arts bloggers consist of
bloggers who cover dance, concert music, theater, opera and related

I can sympathize with some of Doug’s frustrations. In preparing
to promote "The Online Salon Movement" session, I contacted the
convention organizers to see about obtaining some promotional banners,
scripts, etc. but discovered that the only thing available was a
standard 468×60 banner. So much for inserting something into one of my
side columns to promote the session, the only way that was going to
happen was if I was willing to do the graphic work. Ultimately, I did
modify the existing NPAC banner to include some text in the same
font/color announcing the date, time, and location of the session and
distributed it to my fellow session panelists but I didn’t have the
time to do anything more.

I can attest to the value of taking the time to create
promotional banners for new media related material. For example, the
2008 Take a Friend to Orchestra program was the first where I created a wide variety of standard size banners
(35 to be precise), each featuring a specific contributor’s name.
Consequently, not only did each contributor get some use the banners
that worked best for what they needed but they were used at more than
50 other websites. One orchestra even took the time to touch a banner
up with their orchestra website’s color scheme.

Doug goes on to lament about the lack of reaching out among
convention organizers in other ways. He cites some of what he observes
as shortcomings in the official conference blog:

The official conference blog, Program Notes, which is
written on a volunteer basis, is haphazard, poorly-formated and barely
provides any factual details about what actually happened at the
conference. But I do appreciate Sarah Baird’s response to my comment in
which she provides details about what happened at the blogging-focussed
sessions. Overall, this blog simply offers a smattering of disconnected
ideas and experiences and there is very little follow-up in response to

Also, Program Notes has a short, arbitrary blogroll that
consists of just nine blogs. Why and how were these nine blogs

His final question is a good one and it seems that those blogs
had some relationship with the official conference blog’s contributors
(many of which I know and admire). Nevertheless, there were dozens of
other convention attendees, speakers, and guests who maintain regular
blogs and wrote about the convention yet their blogs weren’t included
in the official conference blogroll. Yes, other bloggers could have
posted comments to any of the articles in the official conference blog,
but that’s hardly an inclusive attitude.

I think having an official conference blog is a great
idea and those who took part in that blog did a wonderful job but as Doug rightly concludes, the convention’s positive outcomes
failed to maximize their impact throughout the extended cultural
community due to a restricted blogging vision. In short, it was one big
missed opportunity and I would have to agree. My own blogging-related
experiences were brief and frustrating. For example, wireless access
wasn’t available in the convention center and restricted to limited
areas in the adjacent.

If I wanted to blog about anything, I had to go back to my
hotel room (assuming I shelled out the dough for a 24 hour connection –
which I didn’t) or use a cellular provider via a wireless card
(something I don’t have). As a result, the solution was to walk two
blocks for access via an internet cafe that was, at best, spotty. This
isn’t to say that the conference was all bad, yet I feel that Doug’s
piece goes a long way toward vocalizing the frustration that was felt
by many of my fellow conventioneers.

Interestingly enough, anyone who reads my conference eBook, How to Connect With New Media (available as a free download)
and then reads Doug’s post will notice that the latter identifies just
about every way the conference failed to follow suggested best
practices in the former. Nevertheless, I don’t want readers to think
that the entire NPAC conference was a bust, quite the contrary.
Tomorrow’s article will provide more of a comprehensive retrospective.

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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2 thoughts on “Can’t Bloggers Get A Little Love?”

  1. Drew,

    Thanks for your post in response to mine.

    BTW, Amanda the web manager for National Performing Arts Conference, just posted about my post, your post and others discussing the conferences Internet and blog strategy. I appreciate their being open to different viewpoints. Maybe this will serve as good springboard to engage many in performing arts about this topic and for us to explore different approaches.

    You bring-up important topic above about leveraging distributed communities to get the word out about a program and drive traffic to your website or blog. I didn’t realize how many banners you created for your Take a Friend to Orchestra program – I’m sure it’s worth it as you say.

    The beauty with many performing arts organizations is that there are already a lot of people (audiences, supporters, funders and others) who are more than happy to support their efforts and activities. These fans just need simple tools such as your banner program to help get the word out there.

    And thank you for getting this component of the discussion started. If nothing else, the banner issue serves as a good example of making it as easy as possible for people to use promotional tools. If the hassle or lack of offerings crosses a certain point then people end up getting turned off. To a larger extent, and as time passes, I think internet users are going to begin expecting a certain level of offerings with regard to social networking and viral tools and websites/blogs will be judged, in part, on how well they meet these user requirements. ~ Drew McManus

  2. As important as it is to leverage technology, I feel like this is part of a greater issue facing the performing arts. To me, this dovetails with the constant calls for orchestras to break from outdated traditions in the concert hall, look outside the industry to recruit staff and management, retool the concert format, etc . . . Isn’t this all about the fact that the performing arts struggle to evolve?

    Certainly there are examples of orchestras producing and distributing their own MP3’s, hosting concerts on Second Life, and regularly releasing podcasts; but we need more of that. Try some of this and some of that, learn from other organizations (maybe even from other industries, heaven forbid!), and (as one management professor told me) stumble forward.

    Hopefully, the performing arts world can more fully engage the blogosphere soon, but I think there are endemic issues that need to be solved first. I don’t what they all are – perhaps a subject for a future post – but I think if some of those problems were fixed, we’d progress in a lot of different ways.

    Hi Darren and thanks for a great comment – that’s just about the most concise way I’ve read anyone sum up all those issues. I agree that the orchestra business needs to begin embracing bloggers and blogging to a much larger extent.

    Given all the formal and informal discussion at NPAC about how to improve cooperation between arts groups and build a stronger presence, a number of individuals seemed disinterested in talking about taking advantage of new media. On the bright side, there were some who were very interested in the idea and I’m hoping those folks will have the courage to forge ahead and be the leaders the others end up following. ~ Drew McManus

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