Last month, the gold-standard and most influential arts newspaper, The New York Times, announced it was eliminating its coverage of New York tri-state regional theatre, restaurants, and galleries. And as recently as last week The Wall Street Journal had a similar announcement.
To some organizations, this came as a shock, having relied on the Times for publicly validating their shows, building their audiences, and providing third-party support for their grant proposals. But my sense is that this was predictable, a long time in coming. And if you’re as devoted to reading New York City arts coverage as I am, you’re probably as worried about reductions that could come there as well. That The New York Times decided to cut arts coverage isn’t really a surprise, because readership in newspapers in general has been declining for more than a decade and other traditional print publications continue to struggle to find a business model to sustain them into the future. Arguably, the Times is doing better than most.
Sadly, the audience for the arts — even at 76 million strong — is still too small a demographic to draw the kinds of advertisers that could support a full flank of arts reporters. And because journalism is a business, driven by circulation and eyeballs, advertising dollars follow audience size.
Thus, this news provides yet another siren call for a redoubled focus on the kind of one-to-one digital marketing that I started our company to foster more than 15 years ago when we launched PatronMail, the first email service for the arts. It was clear then that the future of audience building lay in developing individualized “opt-in” relationships with patrons and donors that no longer relied on an intermediary such as The New York Times.
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