How you can save arts journalism, starting right now.

Arts administrator and marketing consultant Howard Sherman explains why arts journalism is a numbers game and what you can do to encourage more media coverage of the arts.

I am going to take it for granted that, since you’ve opted to read this article, you care about the arts. I’m also going to save time and typing by assuming that you appreciate media coverage of the arts and that you realize that without the attention of the media, it will be ever harder for the arts to share their news, their work and their value locally, nationally and internationally.

Since we are agreed, I will proceed directly to my point.

If you want to see intelligent, comprehensive coverage of the arts – features and reviews alike – then you’ve got to start clicking. Journalism is well on its way to being a numbers game for most outlets. How many people clicked on a story or video, how many times was it liked or shared, how much time was spent looking at it? We are already seeing journalism sites paying writers base salaries with bumps or bonuses based on online metrics; outlets say they are dropping certain types of coverage because it’s simply not generating enough traffic. It’s not enough to be happy that arts coverage exists, you have to actually engage with it to insure its survival and the job survival of those who create it.

Clicks mean eyes and eyes mean advertisers. As print becomes an ever-harder sell, online advertising grows ever more important to outlets. Even back in the days pre-internet, I encountered cuts in arts coverage because the arts didn’t generate enough advertising revenue (whereas advertisers loved sports sections and we get regular features about new cars because auto dealers buy big ads). Even now, arts spending online is a small sliver of online advertising, so our best means of supporting arts coverage is by actually reading it.

Let’s face it: anyone with a WordPress blog knows how many people read each piece they post (yes, I’m watching you). But that’s amateur hour compared to the realtime and cumulative algorithms and analytics applied at big media outlets. There are teams of people looking at clicks, links and likes for every story, and media empires are being built on click-bait methodology (why, hello BuzzFeed). It’s running the show in many places and it can’t be ignored.

So here’s what I propose. Every morning, when you get online, go to the arts section of your local media outlets, seek out their arts and entertainment stories, and click of them. Don’t click on each in rapid succession, but spend 30 to 45 seconds on each one (remember your multiple browser windows). You have to wait a bit because one analytic is stickiness or hang-time or whatever it’s called now, namely whether people are really engaging with coverage. A click on and immediate click off looks like you got there by mistake. And needless to say, it certainly won’t hurt in the least if you actually read a story or watch a video while you’re at it.

Read the complete article on Sherman’s blog.

Via: Howard Sherman