Where’s the evidence for how best to use digital? What will people pay for in the new ‘freemium economy’? What is interactive, really?

FreemiumFollowing on from Emma’s post about LSO St Luke’s Digital Symposium on Friday – I thought I’d post a response too…

I agree with Emma that Harold Raitt’s (Digital Programme Manager for the National Theatre’s Discover Programme) point about the lack of government-funded research into digital was well-made. It oftens feels like we’re all stumbling about in the dark, trying to work out how best to use digital technology, but without much evidence to prove what’s most effective.

The  lack of evidence about digital at large, was reflected in the content of the Symposium… there were some interesting debates and anecdotes, but not enough hard evidence and detailed case studies were given, to show the potential (and pitfalls) of digital for the arts.

Mark Mulligan (Forrester Research) brought an interesting new perspective from the commercial music industry in his keynote. He was talking about how, in the new freemium economy, we can know what people are prepared to pay for, and what they expect to get for free? Mark reckons that scarce social experience has real value. People will also pay for community, convenience, and some content, if the price is right and it comes as part of the package (ideally).

Mark was advocating for ‘relationships not releases’. Audiences want to be continually engaged in the creative process. They want to buy ‘content packages’ which will enable them to tailor their own unique experiences. They don’t want to buy record albums every few months, but rather want to be kept in the loop, and drip-fed new tracks as they get recorded.

Another point I found particularly interesting (also made by Harold Raitt), was about the real meaning of the word ‘interactive’. This is a term that often gets bandied about when talking about digital. People often assume that any rich media content (photographs, videos, podcasts etc.) is ‘interactive’ but it’s not! Something which is truly interactive, gives an opportunity to contribute and co-create, not just to consume. Therefore, blogs with a comment function, social media communities and digital games provide real interactivity.

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