Here are the most visited, shared, and referenced articles from IMPACTS Experience in 2022.
It’s that time of year, folks! As we all get ready to put 2022 behind us and bring new hopes and plans into 2022, our team at IMPACTS Experience has stopped to take stock of the articles cultural executives found most valuable this year. This annual wrap up has been a pre-New Year’s tradition on Know Your Own Bone for eleven years!
Cultural executives are closing out the third year of learning to live alongside the coronavirus pandemic. While the dust is still settling around the cultural industry’s “new normal,” some critical elements of the changed conditions are beginning to emerge. Digital engagement, elevated trust perceptions, and expanding audiences are a few existing trends that grew even more mission-critical in 2022. But we’re also observing a heightened awareness of sustainable business practices that aid in engaging audiences while also keeping funding flowing – an especially important concern after facing the difficulties of the last few years. This is manifesting itself in more thoughtful approaches to admission pricing and membership structures. We’re also heading into 2023 with increased competition for leisure activities and some concern about economic factors on the horizon. It’s been a busy year, and it seems we’ll have another busy and important year to come.
As a note, we’ve removed two articles that made the top ten list from this line up:
- Market Potential by Quarter in 2022: Projected Attendance to US Cultural Entities (DATA): This is one of the most popular articles that we post on this site every year. We know how important this article is for the industry and we have a solid sense of how many thousands of cultural entities relay on this article in their board rooms. Because it’s now an annual staple, we’ve removed it from this list.
- Proof of Vaccination Requirements: Do Visitors to Cultural Entities Want Them? (DATA): This article is #6 in popularity in 2022, but we’ve removed it from this list to make way for articles that may be more helpful for entities as we enter 2023. This article demonstrates where things stood at the end of 2021, which is interesting in retrospect, but less relevant to current conditions.
And now, on to the countdown of the top ten most viewed, shared, and referenced articles on this website in 2022.
10) Post-Pandemic Attendance Projections for Museums? Do Not Rely on Pent-Up Demand (DATA)
As they began to reopen again, entities faced concerns about getting back to their 2019 attendance and operating conditions. There’s been significant consideration given to the condition of “pent-up demand,” the assumption that attendance would increase above the 2019 baseline because people who couldn’t previously go now feel comfortable visiting.
But pent-up and deferred demand borne of pandemic-related closures has largely been satisfied. This article considers what this means as your organization considers its attendance projections. In short, the people who missed us when we were closed or when COVID was raging aren’t a bonus atop previously-projected attendance during a difficult time – they are the heroes who fueled our recovery and got us to 2023. They’ve come. They’ve helped us. They’ve done their work as cultural organization attendees and advocates.
9) What Do Current Economic Concerns Mean for Admission Pricing? (DATA)
Cultural executives are grappling with public concerns about the economy. How much do admission fees contribute to cost-related barriers to visiting? This article has the answer.
Despite economic concerns and predictions of a recession, the market does not show evidence of broad concerns about admission pricing. Indeed, many organizations report favorable attendance trends as consumer behaviors gradually return to pre-pandemic patterns. But we’re also concurrently observing several organizations express concern about the role that their respective admission prices play as a potential barrier to engagement amidst the current economic malaise.
The simple answer – as is often the case in these type of broad economic analyses – is that there is no simple answer. Economies are complex systems and rarely does one factor singlehandedly drive perceptions or actualities. However, the research does lend insight into what aspects of our high-propensity visitors’ behaviors are most likely to be affected by negative economic sentiments. And, perhaps surprisingly to cultural executives, admission pricing is among the cost factors least likely to be affected.
8) Have Cultural Entities Grown More Welcoming? Here’s What the Public Thinks (DATA)
The research highlights some good news! While there’s still a way to go, cultural organizations on the whole are perceived as more welcoming than even two years ago. This article shows how much change we’ve seen by organization type.
Research suggests that the US public may be noticing the active effort among art entities in the United States to hire more representative leaders, rethink docent programs, and highlight art from more diverse voices and backgrounds. Messages around active efforts to welcome new audiences that are posted online are more likely to be seen than in the past. In this way, organizations “walking their talk” by way of publicizing initiatives to expand and welcome new audiences may stand to benefit from elevated attitude affinities.
The needle has moved for most organization types surrounding attitude affinities, and it may be exciting fuel for further efforts and continued investment. This article shares the data.
7) There Will Be Increased Competition for Leisure Activities in 2023. Here Are the Implications (DATA)
This increased competition isn’t looking positive for museums, in particular. While market potential for the overall industry is still currently estimated to recover to 2019 attendance levels by the end of year 2023, recent findings are challenging this hopeful path.
The research in this article aims to understand which activities people intended to do this year (2022) compared to next year (2023). The result is the tough realization that competition for out-of-home activities is predicted to be even more fierce in 2023. This means cultural entities may benefit by paying special attention to their targeting and marketing efforts, business operations, and overall engagement strategies. This article pairs nicely with another data article that makes our list of the most popular (originally #9), but that we’ll pair here instead: Data Update On Growing Cultural Organization Competition: The Couch
The good news? If they act now, organizations may turn things around.
6) Does Free Admission Result in More Diverse Audiences? A Pandemic-Informed Update (DATA)
Compared to museums with a paid admission basis, free museums (still) generally do not have higher onsite satisfaction, more willing endorsers, nor are they perceived as more welcoming.
Audience engagement for free vs. paid admission museums is a cut-and-dry data and economics conversation, but it’s arguably the most emotionally fraught topic we share on this website. Although research helps remove guesswork and allows leaders to make strategic decisions based more on facts than feelings, leaders also tend to have strong feelings about their feelings. (It’s human). Perhaps no topic in the museum industry is more fact-ignored and feelings-founded than the topic of free admission.
This article was published just last month, and it blew us away with its shares and views, almost making the top-five most popular articles of the year despite its later publication date.
5) Cultural Entities Are Not Expanding Audiences Fast Enough to Sustain Attendance. Here’s What This Means (DATA)
Efforts to expand and diversify audiences to cultural organizations have notably increased in the past few years. During 2022, we shared some exciting progress in terms of elevated welcoming perceptions for cultural organizations and increased trial by first-time visitors during the pandemic. Active efforts to prioritize diversity and inclusion are beginning to yield improvements. But will the increased trial by more diverse audiences prove durable enough to become actual conversion to a more diverse visitor profile in the long-term?
It’s a good question – and it’s one that we’ve been tracking at IMPACTS Experience since long before the pandemic. Simply put, cultural organizations in the United States are not engaging new audiences fast enough. Here’s an update on the industry’s negative substitution ratio – and what this means for cultural organizations.
4) The Pandemic Has Shifted The Types of Cultural Entities That People Prefer to Visit (DATA)
As Americans learn to live alongside the coronavirus, they continue to prefer some cultural activities over others when compared to 2019 – and the research suggests that these evolving preferences may prove durable.
When the pandemic first began, IMPACTS Experience started monitoring how the coronavirus was impacting the types of organizations people were choosing to visit. We’ve referred to this metric as the “redistribution of demand.” Now, years into the pandemic, institutions may expect the demand for different cultural experiences to return to pre-pandemic levels. In other words, one might think that the folks who once enjoyed going to the theater over the zoo would by now have returned to their pre-pandemic preferences.
But that’s not the case. The demand for onsite cultural engagement remains redistributed away from some organization types and towards others. This research has important implications for strategic planning, market potential and future attendance expectations, and engagement tactics.
3) Engagement Insights From the Gift Shop: What Visitors Say Is the Best Thing About The Museum Retail Experience (DATA)
Think museum retail is just about “selling stuff?” Think again. What people report to be the best thing about a museum retail experience may highlight key strategies for museum industry recovery during the pandemic.
At IMPACTS Experience, we’re in-market on an ongoing basis asking many open-ended questions, from “What will make you feel comfortable visiting (as we learn to live alongside the pandemic)?” to “What was the best thing about your most recent visit?” and hundreds of questions in between. The processes we deploy to collect these types of robust data responses allow us to dive deep into perceptions and motivations while minimizing framing and cognitive bias. In this article, we shared what recent museum retail visitors in the United States – without a list or prompt – say is the best thing about their gift shop experience.
Spoiler alert: The research findings have implications far beyond the gift shop experience.
2) Which Social Media Channel Is Most Important for Cultural Organizations? (DATA)
There are a lot of social media platforms out there and cultural organizations aim to be as efficient and effective as possible – so which platform leads to the most engagement and conversions among the most likely guests? That is the question explored in the data in this popular article.
Heightened expectations surrounding digital engagement are informing how potential visitors engage with online ticketing platforms, how effective digital marketing is, and most critically, how people interact with cultural organizations on social media. But cultural organizations don’t have unlimited time and budgets, and not all social media channels are equally effective.
This article was so popular and received so much feedback that we provided an update and organized the data for both exhibit and performance-based organizations to spot differences.
1) Why Aren’t Interested Visitors Attending? The Top Reasons Have Changed For Now (DATA)
In the ten years preceding the pandemic, the top reasons why people with a stated interest in visiting did not actually attend those organizations remained generally durable. While IMPACTS Experience observed that the top barriers differed a bit in order, strength of conviction, and detail by region and organization type, we found that the underlying rationales remained static for years. Enter the pandemic. It’s not news that the cultural industry experienced massive disruption in 2020, and it’s not news that the chips have not settled yet.
In 2022, two new barriers to attendance emerged for cultural organizations to surmount in order to re-engage past visitors and also motivate new attendance.
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 by IMPACTS Experience.
I especially want to thank you for counting on us. We are grateful to think that we may have been helpful to you and your organizations in 2022. We’re glad that we may support your important work. And we have a great deal of new data, analysis, and research updates coming your way in 2023. So, here’s to a brand-new year!
Thank you for your hard work this year – and every year – to inspire, educate, and make the world a more meaningful and connected place.
IMPACTS Experience provides data for the world’s leading organizations through workshops, keynote presentations, webinars, and data services such as pricing recommendations, market potential analyses, concept testing, and Awareness, Attitude, and Usage studies. Learn more.
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