Engine29 Garage: Quotes on engagement, incentives and future of arts coverage

How do you encourage engagement?

Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts, the Knight Foundation, Miami: “The buy-in period is critical but then the issue is how do you ramp up? We try to attract people with a weekly push [via an email newsletter]. Also, we make sure people have to go to our site to get news and information, for instance, the Knight/NEA Community Arts Challenge. So our solution is both pushing out and having special events that can be accessed only through the site.”

Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts, the Knight Foundation, Miami: “We require every grantee to post at least once a month on our site. That’s a requirement of the grant agreement. It gives us content but also allows us to drive traffic to the site.”

Steve Buttry, director of community engagement and social media, Journal Register Co., Yardley, Pa.: “I’d get people who are already engaged, who are already depressing keys. If they are already telling their story in some fashion, you want to give them a broader voice. You can give them more bang for the buck.”

 

What incentives can we offer to attract more reader interest?

Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts, the Knight Foundation, Miami: “There’s the Daily Deal phenomenon. It’s pretty powerful, and it’s starting to migrate over to the non-profits. It might be one way to encourage traffic on a site.”

 

What are some effective examples of community engagement?

Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts, the Knight Foundation, Miami: “We created the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge, in which we entered into a contest with the NEA. The project was centered in eight communities, Akron, Charlotte, Detroit, Macon, Miami, Philadelphia, St. Paul, San Jose. We got 233 fleshed-out proposals, and the quality of what we got was extraordinary. We took five of the ideas and are now implementing them.”

Steve Buttry, director of community engagement and social media, Journal Register Co., Yardley, Pa.: “We’ve had success with a program called Friday Night Tweets [which involves reader feedback at sports events]. Maybe they could live tweet a rehearsal, or an opening at an art gallery. Or you might encourage someone from the group sitting in the lighting booth or the back row to create a running review [via tweets].”

Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts, the Knight Foundation, Miami: “The spot.us model fascinates me — especially if you can solve the conflict-of-interest issues. We think we’ve solved it by keeping the maximum dollar amount of contributions low. People want to think that they have a direct line to an arts organization. They don’t want to drop a contribution into a gaping maw. So spot.us has more traction than what you would think.”

 

How can traditional media cope with the crisis in arts coverage?

Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts, the Knight Foundation, Miami: “Actually, there’s more arts coverage than ever but it’s not landing on legacy media sources, and it’s not being done by traditional sources. The question is, how do you sift through that content and make it matter?”

Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts, the Knight Foundation, Miami: “We are trying a bunch of things because we can’t train journalists for jobs that aren’t going to be there. Most of these projects are going to fail, but one or two are going to stick, and then we can propagate them out to the rest of America.”

Chad Bauman, director of communication, Arena Stage, Washington, D.C.: “I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think anybody has figured this out.”