If Your Digital Program Is A PDF Of The Print Version, You’re Doing It All Wrong

H/T to Joe Patti for pointing out an opinion piece by Washington Post music critic, Michael Andor Brodeur, that may perhaps be best described with the headline “Perfectly Normal Change Upsets White Male.”

Having said that, he inadvertently touches on one of the very real problems with the way some arts organizations implement digital program books.

Far too often, arts orgs take a PDF copy of the print format layout and serves that up inside a webpage. Even when middleware platforms that provide a somewhat improved user interface are used, the PDF approach is an entirely inadequate solution.

I appreciate Patti’s take on this because he does what he always does best and applies a very practical perspective. In particular, he wonders about sponsorship content.

“…one factor I haven’t come up against yet or seen anyone else address is sponsor and advertiser receptiveness to the digital format. With the print format there was always dickering about placement of logos and sponsorship content – inside cover, back cover, center break, opposite title page, etc., Despite the jockeying that went on, those placements may ultimately not be as important to individuals and organizations as they seemed to be. But I wonder if the loss of some of those options may reduce the perceived value and end up reducing sponsorship and advertising revenue.”

There should be zero question when it comes to the added value a digital format offers to sponsorship opportunities. The ability to inject sponsorship content is limited only by how much priority you want them to have. When implemented properly, there’s nearly limitless ability to gather and deliver conversion metrics to those sponsors.

What better sales tool could you have than quantifiable return on investment?

While no one should expect the sophistication of something on the level of Google Ads, the field can certainly provide a better experience for digital programs than what currently exists. And just imagine the potential for targeted content and ads based on segmentation. Discuss.

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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If Your Digital Program Is A PDF Of The Print Version, You're Doing It All Wrong