Securing Future Audiences at Your Museum
Need some creative and cost-effective ideas on how to attract todays young cosmopolitans to your museum? Help us find out!
This new and unique study examines and raises awareness of programs across the country that engage this younger, socially minded, and creative adult audience known as young cosmopolitans (YoCos).
Your input is crucial to finding out how to attract the next generation of museum visitors and donors. Please help us by filling out this very brief survey. It will only take 5-10 minutes and the results will be emailed to you directly by the end of the summer. Click here to start http://tinyurl.com/yocosurvey
Thank you for your help!
Matthew Edling, Science Museum of Minnesota
Alexandra Gregg, University of Toronto
Two thoughts –
Last year at AAM I chaired a session entitled Beyond the Party: Continuing Engagement with Young Cosmopolitans. The goal of the session was to say, “Hey, let’s move beyond these parties and into real engagement; let’s change our museums to fit the needs of a modern audience, the YoCos.” Outside of museums, our experiences, and interests are 100% customized to meet our needs and wants: your coffee is the way you ordered it and your ipod’s playlist is defined and curated by you. So likewise your museum visit should be unique and relevant to your needs and interests. Need an example. See what Will Cary and the folks at the Brooklyn Museum are up to with 1st Fans. They get it.
You’re right, young cosmopolitans are a huge age demographic (Generation X−those born between 1967 and 1977 and Generation Y−those born between 1978 and 1993), we’re talking about adults from their 20’s to their 60’s. And while that’s not 100% realistic, it is interesting to think about the shared similarities between both ages. Today’s audiences are no longer defined by their demographic traits, rather recognized by their psychographic interests. Combined with our dependency on technology, and you end up with a group of “Digital Nomads.”
What does this mean for museums? This is the start of our revolution¬–the change that everyone is talking about, or should be, is with museums. At first, with young adults the need was to create the parties, and provide the invitation. Now, that they are arriving, and are interested–isn’t this the time to change our programs, exhibitions, and other existing models of activity? Let’s begin to re-think how visitors act–and interact–inside galleries, and with our collections. Asking what is the role and purpose of exhibitions, and programs, and how our visitors are to use them and participate. Maybe the best place for the deejay is inside the gallery, on a Saturday afternoon, next to the collections?
The programs can be the same for the 20-something and the 60-something. The challenge is the diversification of the activities, curating not just the exhibitions, but the programs, digital activities, gallery engagement activities, and outreach.
Good survey - I'm interested to know though if YoCo's should be parsed out more? College kids having different needs that 33 year olds, etc. I'm looking forward to seeing what the results are, for sure.
great questions. the survey was sent to me by Adam Rozan "arozan" AT "museumca.org". I'd encourage him to comment here...or write him. he's got great ideas and amazing energy.
I think they are gearing up for a presentation, maybe for AAM10 in L.A., so this is a good chance for them to get some early feedback.
I mean, really, if the YoCo's are aging you gotta age with them right? "Sex and the City" is now a movie. It's like how market focus went from Gen X to Gen Y. Are YoCos now "retro"?
Are they the technology "nativisits," or is that one more demographic younger? Who owns the "handheld" technologies? Dig the new breed? What are THEY called?
And is this demographic understood in ways that are diverse enough in terms of geography and economics? Are these recent grads any longer or now young soon-to-be-married folks?
And what about the fact that unemployment's at a new high?
Adam? Alexandra? Jessica? Matthew?
We'd love to hear from you here.
Technology has always impressed people, including me, but I’ve never been found shouting from the rooftops about it. This sometimes makes people think I don’t like technology, but not true. It can be exciting, fun and give experiences a “wow” moment—something lacking in these serious times. However, sometimes I think the emphasis on digital to draw out younger, modern crowds, could be less, without diminishing its physical presence. Let’s blur the lines so that tech can become a part of the amazing landscape we offer visitors; instead of “Hey, we have art AND some great special effects that will grab you young people.” I also think many visitors today don’t want to be defined by age or era.
I recently wrote an article on adult program offerings for CAM E-news Beyond the Talking Head: Calling for Atmospheric Change in Adult Programs. (http://www.calmuseums.org/e-news/Hodas_Adult_Audiences_public.pdf) The idea that struck me here was looking at how interdisciplinary a museum’s programs were. Museums getting caught up in “We are a history museum” type of statements, miss an opportunity, as Rozan talks about, to mirror modern life. There’s been a lot of talk about the President’s ipod mix. My ipod has everything from Chet Baker to Sinatra to Wilco to South Park episodes. Is that what YOU have on it? I didn’t think so.
At a recent Cultural Connections meeting, hosted by the Contemporary Jewish Museum, I listened to John Killacky, Program Officer for Arts and Culture at the San Francisco Foundation, talk about museums serving audiences living in a “changed landscape;” not one that was in the process of changing. From where I stand it has less to do with technology and much to do with social awareness. Perhaps they coincide, perhaps not. Many Young (and young in mind) Cosmopolitans have a common interest: social justice, socially conscious concepts, lifestyles, and organizations. If some are more actively participating than others, I’d say most are disinterested in anything in a museum (and elsewhere) that doesn’t at least acknowledge a social awareness about whatever is being exhibited.
I’m hoping that Young Cosmopolitans—and older ones will move museums into the future the same way GM and Ford are being forced to change or dissolve. I think Rozan’s session which sought to “move beyond these parties and into real engagement; [to] change our museums to fit the needs of a modern audience, the YoCos” is right on the money.
Bottom line, of course, I vote with my money (admission) and my mouth (word of mouth)—so too does this audience. If museums can’t bring themselves into the 21st century, perhaps future donors will.
Libbie Hodas, 2009 CAM Fellow; Foundations and Governments Intern, SFMOMA
These are great questions and ones that are so important for museums right now, especially as stats show that by 2017 the younger YoCos (Gen Y) will outnumber any other generation in history! And like you said, James, if YoCos are aging, we have to age with them.
The demographic problem is interesting and I think Adam summed it up perfectly. If you look at which generation is most into new techy toys and handhelds, most creative, most social, the lines are fairly blurred. That’s why I like the term YoCo – young cosmopolitan – because it focuses more on a psychographic than on specifically drawn lines of age, gender, etc. YoCos are the people who are highly social, are all over facebook and iphones, and are curious, creative, and cosmopolitan. It’s the people who go to the Hirshhorn’s famous after-hours event in DC, or the Hammer’s Bike Night in LA.
Like Adam said, identifying and using these characteristics – or looking at psychographics - might be an effective way to help museums to plan programs, marketing campaigns, etc.
But YoCos can still be understood in terms of geography and economics - they tend to gravitate around cities and have a general US buying power of $924 billion.
The unemployment factor and our unfortunate current economy are important here. Through this survey we hope to find out ‘how’ people are running programs in terms of resources. From this we can see who is doing what and what is both cost-effective and mission-driven. In other words, what is affordable for museums and for YoCos?
We really appreciate everyone’s feedback and help with this project. It’s a new field of research and we hope to have as many people participate as possible. Thank you!
I don't have much to add beyond Alex and Adam's very cohesive thoughts on the topic of YoCos themselves. Rather I can touch on the brief mentions in an earlier post related to technology and potentially send this conversation in a slightly different direction. It seems young adults and technology end up in the same category a lot of the time, but I'm not convinced that the solution some institutions have tried of "adding tech to increase visitorship from this audience" is a very effective one.
I don't think we can stress enough the importance of looking beyond demographics especially as pertains to technology adoption and museum going. As an example (purely anecdotal, but fleshing out the point), I and all my close friends are of the same generation, we went to the same high school, have the same SES, all went to college, all grew up with computers in our homes and internet in our dorm rooms. We are now young professionals who work in all sectors - non profit, non government, for profit, etc., and live in urban centers along the east coast. Yet the range of tech skills and tech adoption in this group who all share the exact same demographics is completely different. I'm the certified "techy" of the group, yet I was the last one on Facebook. My friend who has never heard of a wiki has every iPhone app under the sun. A third friend just discovered the ubiquity of wi-fi. It seems rather comical, but it's true. Further, of the 7 of us, we all attend cultural events, but very few of us go to museums (unless family is in town and we can't figure out what else to do with them).
I think the Pew Internet and American Life Project is really doing the best job of sussing out these details and psychographic typologies as the digital age continues to carry us through on a wave of innovation. http://www.pewinternet.org/topics/Technology-user-types.aspx
This came through my inbox just yesterday and continues to highlight the notion that age-based assumptions just won't cut it -
"It's Personal: Similarities and Differences in Online Social Network Use Between Teens and Adults
May 23, 2009
American youth are the most fervent users of social networks, with a far greater percentage of the population (65%) using networks than among adults.
Nevertheless, 35% of American adults represents an enormous number of people and the bulk of users of social networks. "
My last thought (and I apologize for the stream of consciousness) takes us back to the intent of the presentation, which will be based on the results of this survey. Adhering to outcomes-based and goals-based models of programmatic creation, will allow the institution to consider it's own mission and it's departmental goals in line with the audiences they are trying to attract and what it is they hope that audience will get out of the experience. If technology is the solution to the equation - go for it. If wine, live music, and late hours is what meets your goals - then I think that's pretty OK too.
This survey will help identify those various goals and corresponding solutions that are currently being tried on (as well as any current barriers to attempting such things) and put them into an economic, practitioner-based framework to share back to the community. The more responses we have, the better this effort will be!
Thanks for sharing the survey and for continuing this conversation.
RT @NancyProctor Great message for Smithsonian leadership: the vision of 'Generation M' http://snurl.com/mojhe (via @naypinya) #si20
love what's happening here in these comments above!
Following up a year later...
Is there a survey report accessible anywhere online?
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