Here are the most visited, shared, and referenced articles from IMPACTS Experience in 2020.
What a year! As we all get ready to put 2020 behind us, our team at IMPACTS Experience has stopped to take stock of the articles cultural executives found most valuable this year.
It was a unique year with new challenges facing the cultural sector, to say the least. We started in January by publishing articles every other week, but when the pandemic struck and the national emergency was announced in March of 2020, our schedule changed dramatically. We secured additional funding from foundation partners to monitor the pandemic’s impact on perceptions and behaviors surrounding visitor-serving organizations such as museums and performing arts organizations. To be helpful to the sector, we published articles twice per week tracking sentiments over time (e.g. data on what will make people feel safe) for several months. Though this makes the traditional countdown a bit more complicated this year, fear not, cultural comrades, for we’ve grouped data updates together on this list! And they’ve already proven helpful to our plans for more updates to aid your strategic directions in 2021.
It will be a better year, gosh darn it!
Though we published data in 2020 related to the increasing credibility of museums, why millennials donate, access challenges, and how much time people are spending online while in quarantine, readers were understandably most interested in the direct impacts of the pandemic. Here are the top ten most viewed, shared, and referenced articles on this website in 2020.
“In my 25 years in executive roles at cultural organizations, I’ve had to lead through challenging times. Based on my experience and now working with a research firm to guide these entities, here are four things to keep in mind.” This year was rough. My colleague, Jim Hekkers, gets it. This article outlines Jim’s four pillars for leadership in difficult times.
We share a great deal of data on this website, but the popularity of this article is a good reminder that the data can be meaningless if it isn’t considered and used by thoughtful leaders – especially in times of hardship.
2020 brought a pandemic, fires, hurricanes, an economic recession, and – unsurprisingly – major changes in the top reasons why people with interest do not attend museums and performing arts organizations. Not one but two major barriers to visitation emerged as top forces keeping people from coming in the doors of cultural entities in 2020 that were either not around or were significantly less impactful in 2019. Here’s how top barriers changed between September of 2019 and September of 2020.
Data suggests that members and subscribers may be particularly important target audiences upon reopening. This article kicked off an important conversation this year on this site regarding these critical advocates and why they are so important for pandemic-related recovery. We built upon this article over time by sharing even more information about members and subscribers, including data on what makes them feel safe and how their demographics generally differ from those of other guests.
If museums and performing arts entities were all reopened and did not need to limit capacity, what level of attendance could they expect to achieve throughout 2020? This article shares the broad market potential expectations for both exhibit-based and performance-based cultural entities as determined by data-informed modeling efforts. The goal of this article was to provide a quantitative benchmark within the sector for planning purposes. We look forward to sharing updated market potential for the sector in January for 2021 and beyond.
To what extent will guests attend in the near term, or when cultural organizations reopen? While national trends shine a light on intentions to visit and general perceptions surrounding cultural entities during the pandemic, we did see regional variance – particularly at the start of the pandemic when different cities had different infection rates and were reacting differently to the virus. These four factors were the most common reasons for some regional variance during 2020. They are likely to continue to provide insight moving forward as vaccinations roll out and the presidential administration changes.
Heads-up: IMPACTS Experience is able to cut near-real-time data on perceptions and behaviors surrounding specific organization types and regions/cities for interested organizations. We’re also able to provide market potential analysis for attendance planning. While we provide national analysis on this site, we have data ready to be of service to individual entities as well.
This article discusses three operational areas that represented common weaknesses in the business models of cultural entities prior to COVID-19 that were exacerbated during the pandemic. Consideration of these areas proved crucial for organizational survival, in some cases. And patching them up quickly provided an opportunity to transform some weak spots into superpowers – such as digital engagement. This article was written while many entities were closed (that’s referring to round one for some regions that are now experiencing round two of closures, or who never got a chance to reopen at all). Still, these areas were and remain valuable to consider from a data-informed standpoint as entities move into 2021.
“If your cultural organization is closed to the public due to COVID-19, don’t disregard marketing efforts. Here’s data to inform what to do instead.” We are so glad that this article got so much attention! Even before the pandemic, cultural organizations’ knee-jerk reaction to lost revenue from any cause was often to cut marketing budgets – which was already a silly, short-sighted, not-data-supported thing to do. But closures complicated things. Indeed, the same marketing investments in the same channels with the same messages made less sense. This article shared key factors to inform marketing and communications strategies during this uncertain time, based upon some things we know about audiences and their behaviors that are more certain.
Spoiler alert: Marketing is still important – even when you’re closed!
3) When do people intend to visit? (Ongoing data updates)
We published data updates on when people plan to return to traditional visitation levels every week for four months in 2020 (March 16th through July 27th). From there, we provided updates as we spotted notable changes. Plans to visit varied by time period, regional infection rates, and national occurrences such as protests against racial injustice. We may have spent much of it on our couches, but 2020 was not a boring year, folks!
These intent to visit articles were popular, and we could see that many institutions checked them weekly in order to keep tabs on changing conditions. We are grateful to have been a source of stable and reliable information during this time – even if the information wasn’t always sunny. You can scroll through to your desired week of the pandemic and check them out here.
We’re already seeing that news surrounding the vaccine is altering peoples’ plans to visit cultural entities in 2021. We look forward to keeping you posted on this metric in the New Year as well.
2) Which cultural entities will people visit? (Ongoing data updates)
Even more popular than data on when people would visit was ongoing data regarding where they will visit. Indeed, we noted a redistribution of demand to different organization types in 2020. This redistribution preference remained generally stable throughout the year, with people preferring to visit outdoor entities that allow for freedom of movement (i.e. zoos, parks, gardens, etc.) over those perceived to require limited movement in an enclosed space (i.e. traditional performing arts). You can see the charts over time here, here, here, and here.
We have another update on this metric coming in early 2021! Subscribe to this site by email so that you don’t miss them.
1 ) What will make guests feel safe attending? (Ongoing data updates)
Masks? Hand sanitizer? Vaccinations? The government lifting restrictions? This topic takes the cake. By far, our most viewed and shared articles featured data we’ve been tracking around what will make people feel safe visiting cultural entities. We saw some big changes throughout the year! At the start of the pandemic, masks didn’t even make the list. (Remember when the news was that masks are unnecessary and to be used by only medical professionals?) Well, that certainly changed. Making face masks mandatory is now the top thing potential visitors say will make them feel safe visiting. Even when masks were still considered especially polarizing, likely visitors throughout the country preferred mandatory mask requirements for cultural participation.
It’s noteworthy to us that of all the data coming in, cultural executives and staff members were most interested in how to keep their visitors safe. In 2020, you wanted your visitors to feel confident and secure. Our experience is that entities generally took safety very seriously this year.
And of course you did, didn’t you? You are the leaders who educate and inspire our communities. Arguably, wellbeing and connection are embedded in the missions of many institutions. In 2020 – despite the hard times – you walked your talk and you cared. Thank you for that.
I end this annual round-up each year by thanking you all for being here. I thank you for reading, sharing, citing, referencing, watching, and discussing Know Your Own Bone and the research shared here. But this year I also want to thank you for counting on us. This year hasn’t been easy for anyone, but we are grateful to think that we may have been helpful to you and your organizations.
We believe that you and your work make the world better.
We have a great deal of new data, analysis, and research updates coming your way in 2021. So, here’s to a brand new year! Here’s to working together to educate, inspire, and to make the world a more meaningful and connected place – even when it’s hard.
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