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Adoption of digital slows among arts and cultural organisations
New research shows that arts and cultural organisations continue to benefit from digital technologies though the pace of adoption is slowing*.
Digital Culture 2015 is the third annual survey from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts – a £7million fund from Arts Council England, Nesta and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to help arts and cultural organisations grow their audience reach or business models by using digital technologies. 984 organisations responded to the survey, with the findings benchmarked against previous years.
The findings show that organisations remain optimistic when it comes to digital technology. Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) said it was having a major positive impact overall and 78 per cent said they wanted to try a new digital activity next year. This year’s survey, however, reveals several areas where digital activity has fallen since the study commenced in 2013 and reported levels of impact have dropped in key areas such as distribution and creation.
It is the sector’s ‘digital leaders’ – the 10 per cent of organisations who place the highest level of importance on digital technology – that are reaping the most rewards. They lead the way, for example, in terms of revenue generation with more than a quarter (26 per cent) using third-party platforms to generate revenue compared to a sector average of 9 per cent. On average the leading 10 per cent undertake 13.7 digital activities compared to 9.5 for the sector as a whole and are more likely to report a positive impact on their organisation’s performance.
For the sector as a whole, a lack of internal and external funding (73 per cent and 61 per cent respectively) and scarcity of staff time (71 per cent), were identified as the main barriers to organisations fully realising their digital aspirations. The number of organisations that report lacking a senior manager with a digital remit has risen to 39 per cent from 31 per cent in 2013, while slow or limited IT systems remain a problem for more than a third (37 per cent).
Simon Mellor, Executive Director for Arts and Culture at Arts Council England comments: “This year’s survey clearly demonstrates the returns that many arts and cultural organisations are enjoying as a result of their investment in digital technology and R&D. However it is also revealing of the many pressures that those organisations are currently experiencing and it is disappointing to see evidence that some organisations are reducing their investment in digital activities. We will continue to support, advise and encourage organisations to allocate appropriate levels of resources to investment in digital innovation, so that they are able to grow as businesses in the digital economy in which they all operate.”
Hasan Bakhshi, director of creative economy at Nesta comments: “Over the past three years, Digital Culture has revealed how arts and cultural organisations in England are engaging with digital technologies in myriad ways. A key finding is that organisations that experiment with technologies – stepping up activities which bear fruit and scaling back on activities which disappoint – are seeing more impact on their performance. In this context, the suggestion that some organisations are pulling back on experimentation this year should be cause for concern. If nothing else, this reinforces the message that policy makers should continue to prioritise R&D in the arts and culture sector.”
In June 2015, the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts launched a toolkit to help arts and cultural organisations grow their digital products and services. The toolkit, which includes guides to developing a business plan, communicating need with stakeholders and user testing, is available to download at artsdigitalrnd.org.uk/toolkit/
*Digital Culture 2015 was produced by MTM London for Arts Council England, Nesta and the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. 984 arts and culture organisations in England responded to the survey between 23rd March and 9th October 2015 including museums, galleries, performing arts venues, performing arts companies, combined arts centres, and festivals and events.
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