Bits to Blogs: Putting Digital First

A couple of weeks ago I was in Newcastle to give a talk at an event called Bits to Blogs at the Great North Museum:

Bits 2 Blogs is the regional e-learning event for museum, library and archive professionals in the North East. It provides a varied day of presentations and workshops that:

  • Showcase the ways in which digital technologies and social media are being used to support and enhance educational programmes in the cultural heritage sector
  • Demonstrate how social media can be used to build engaging relationships with our audiences
  • Provide practical demonstrations of technologies that are relevant and affordable to the sector
  • Demand no prior experience. Bits 2 Blogs is specifically designed to inspire and appeal to all!

The slides from my talk are at the bottom of this post. As is often the way with these things, they don’t make quite so much sense without me talking over them (and you’re missing out on some fancy transitions) so I’ll start with some explanation and links. Feel free to skip on to the pretty pictures if you must.

I’d quite like to give this talk again at some point (*hint*).

Putting Digital First

The first part of my talk was called ‘Putting Digital First’ and it was about how arts and heritage organisations could and should approach digital projects.

More to the point, it was about how, in some cases, arts and heritage organisations are being beaten at their own game (or at least challenged) by people armed with little more than a laptop and an internet connection. I wanted to talk about why that might be the case and what could be done about it.

There are many examples of people punching well above their supposed weight online. I pointed to Bo Burnham, Digital Photography School, Swiss Miss and Boiler Room but the list could go on. I also talked about how a few notable artists, organisations and brands have been transferring their efforts across to digital – Radiohead, Louis CK, The Atlantic and Transformers: Autocracy being ones that seem to be succeeding and/or trying new things. Again, the list could’ve gone on.

[A quick side note – if I’d had longer I might’ve talked about some attempts that haven’t worked so well].

I also quoted Nick Poole’s talk at Bits to Blogs 2011, the conclusion of Bill Thompson’s talk at OpenCulture, Steve Yelvington’s post on getting ‘digital first’ right in the ‘newsroom’ and this from an article about how The Atlantic made the move to digital first:

We decided to prioritize digital over everything else. We were no longer going to be ‘The Atlantic, which happens to do digital.’ We were going to be a digital media company that also published The Atlantic magazine.

I’m planning to expand on this topic at some point and I might also talk about how some of this thinking applies to my recent work with the Royal Court theatre on their Young Writer’s Festival website.

You’ll know you ‘get it’ when…

I really dislike the way people talk about those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t, but that’s a rant for another time. The second part of my talk was really a list of ten traits of good digital projects. It’s not comprehensive and not intended to be prescriptive – I’m quite happy to accept exceptions and I’d be even happier to hear your suggestions.

Here’s my 10:

  1. Project names are search engine-friendly (also, NameChk is your friend)
  2. You work with people with large online networks
  3. There are bloggers on your VIP lists
  4. Each project builds an audience/contacts for the next
  5. People do your marketing for you
  6. You can tell (and/or have a framework for testing) whether new platforms are for you
  7. Test your assumptions online first
  8. You think and act like one of many
  9. Your income comes online
  10. Your audience is online

In this part of the talk I referred to Breathe The Beat, my own YouTube antics for Birmingham Hippodrome, John Willshire’s fireworks and bonfires analogy, Mike Skinner’s thoughts on social media from this interview, The Next Web‘s use of, the idea of the lean startup and this post about how to test a project idea from the founder of Buffer.

Thanks again to Rob and John for having me speak at their event and thanks also to everyone who asked good questions in the Q&A section and said kind things afterwords.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

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