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September 29, 2008

Comments

Director

Nice. I like it. This tactic can also work in other ways besides just marketing, I'd imagine.

cj

Not a good idea. The separation of journalism/criticism from advertising is what makes for legitimate, subjective arts coverage. You can't/shouldn't buy your way into any newspaper if you want an honest reflection/opinion of your work. And legitimate newsmakers are not going to be bought at any price. If you do attempt this, you will cheapen the arts and creativity...and only because you can't step outside a generational ignorance that doesn't understant how agents of communication, influence and empowerment are moving forward at an exponential rate. Instead, create and promote innovative programs, push the limits, explain the historical relevance of the arts, communicate their tangible benefits, and connect your mission to the local, national, and international communities you serve....then you will get noticed. And in 10 years when newspapers are extinct, you'll be lucky enough to have had the foresight to build a real following and gained enough organic recognition that you won't be at the whim of an outdated media delivery systems.

Art is art for arts sake. If you mess with the concept, you mess with human acumen.

Ed

CJ, you're missing an important distinction here- this is a suggested tactic to increase arts coverage in general, on the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats- not to force a paper to cover your theatre in particular. Admittedly the hope is clearly that increased arts coverage will result in increased coverage of your organization, but there's a significant difference between telling an editor 'we're not advertising with you because you don't have enough arts coverage' and 'we're not advertising with you because you don't cover our company in particular often enough.' Also, unless I'm misreading this it seems like a tactic designed to be practiced on a higher level than the actual reviewers that would cover shows. I agree that advertising and editorial should be separate at any respectable news organization, but I don't think that's what's being suggested.
Also, I disagree with you that art is simply for art's sake. Many of the great masters we look up to from the first half of the 20th century backwards were trying to make money and/or win fame. Great art is often the result of commerce. Shakespeare was trying to make a buck. That chapel ceiling at the Vatican wasn't painted for free, either. That the desire to make art due to creative drive and the desire to make art for gain are mutually exclusive is a fallacy.
Adam, have you seen this tactic work in practice, either here in Chicago or elsewhere?

Adam

CJ,

I'm not sure I can respond to your post any better then Ed did (thanks Ed) so I'll just piggy back on him a bit.

You're right, there does need to be a clear line between advertising and editorial. What I'm suggesting is leveraging advertising power to get MORE editorial, not to get a particular type of editorial coverage.

So if your organization got a crappy review of a show and wanted to use your ad dollars to force a more positive review, then that is out of bounds.

And I'm not sure that in 10 years newspapers will be extinct. The "print" form of newspapers may be no more by then, but I think there will still be journalistic institutions and as long as they exist, the arts will need to have some form of relationship with them.

cj

Thanks for the great discussion topic and sharing your thoughts...here are a couple more.

Stick with me and I'll try to better explain.

I understand the thinking behind this tactic, but I can tell you from experience, that it will not work with any legitimate newspaper, and in fact, could possibly backfire.

If a newspaper feels its journalistic integrity is being threatened or bullied, look out. I'd even go so far to say that if an arts collaborative tried this with any leading papers in the top 10 DMAs, you would certainly make news, but not for the quality, creativity or social value of your arts programs...but rather for exploiting the downfall of the newspaper industry.

Think of it this way…At the height of its success and dominance on the way news, commentary, and information was conveyed, the newspaper was the most powerful medium on the planet. We once received our news from 3 television networks, one newspaper, and maybe a couple magazines. The distribution methods were so few in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, etc...that these outlets had a massive amount of influence on how and what news we received. Do you really believe that you could have swayed a traditional media outlet with this tactic during the height of their dominance?

It would have been impossible.

So to think you/we/the arts can do it now because newspapers are begging for ad revenue is a slap in the face to them. Do you really believe the NY Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, etc. would respond to this sort of threat? I can tell you they won't.

Also, take this into consideration. Arts staffers and sections have been cut, downsized, and merged at every major newspaper; Staff dance critics are almost extinct; and vacancies at the NY Times alone, left by Jennifer Dunning, Bernard Holland, Diane Nottle, Gwen Smith, and Lawrence VanGelder, have impacted arts coverage on a national level.

So if, somehow, you were able to convince a newspaper that they will lose your advertising dollars unless they commit to increasing their arts coverage, how would they do it?! They’ve already made a commitment to cutting the coverage!

Retaining the pages devoted to the arts and the expert critics who bring them to life is obviously not a priority for these papers. What remains, are strong sports, national news, and international news sections (and local news for small papers)...the ones with the highest readerships.

Papers have been forced to make drastic cuts and decisions based on declining circulations and decreased ad revenue...and unfortunately, the least economically-beneficial content is getting cut...the arts, the classified ads (destroyed by Craigs list and ebay), and consumer reporting.

...and all that being said, I do admit that there are smaller papers who absolutely are open to "pay-for-play" models, where an advertiser always gets an editorial feature...weather it is a particular arts group, show, artist, or arts collaborative. But do you really want ad dollars to be the reason for editorial interest in the arts...on any level?! If you do, then be sure to understand that editorial will = advertising in the minds of many informed readers.

If you really are serious about employing this tactic and/or endorsing it, I would encourage you/the Chicago arts community to throw your proposed idea up on one of the Chicago Tribune reader blogs…or try to contact Lee Abrams and ask him what he thinks.

I believe what is really needed in the arts, right now, is change. Not a change in our belief or support for the arts, but a philosophical change in delivering, cultivating, and creating the arts that will keep-up with generational shift that we are all a part of at this very moment.

Five years from now, anyone who will be 20 years or younger will only know a world in which everyone and everything has been connected by technology. Show me a 15 year old (who will be 20 in 5 years...and thus entering the work force, college, etc. and have discretionary income) who actually reads a physical copy of the newspaper on a regular basis and I'll give you $1000 dollars. (I doubt they would even be regular readers of www.chicagotribune.com)

So what happens in 5 years, 10, 15 years...??? Who will you turn to for funding and methods will you employ? How will you reach your potential audiences and sell tickets?

What are you/we doing now to ensure the arts truly remain alive for our children and their children?

Thanks again for the great topic.

cj

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