How Will Museums Use Video Streaming?

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What can videos do for museums? It turns out that they can do a lot. In fact, the American Association of Museums’ findings recently highlighted the importance of using video to engage visitors and extend the organization’s reach. Many museums, such as the New York’s American Museum of Natural History, have developed their own YouTube channels, featuring high quality material and daily updated content. Online videos allow for an easier access to the museum’s exhibitions than any possible alternative physical location. Additionally, they present a less intimidating face to viewers who are not regular art attendees. A museums’ online presence and continuous engagement in video production also offers the chance to further cultivate and expand their fan base.

Marketing efforts through video are also effective because electronic means are a growing pathway for arts lovers to consume culture today.  For instance, findings from the National Endowment for the Arts showed that 71% of Americans participate in the arts through electronic media. According to a report from Horowitz Research, 44% of Internet users watch short videos daily, and 76% weekly. This means that a portion of these people surf in the Internet, stream, and download content to view paintings, sculptures, photography, or other visual arts. Videos also have the ability to reach audiences that are traditionally more difficult for museums to connect with, such as minorities and young adults. According to NEA, mobile technology “is here to stay”, playing a crucial role in granting audiences access to content. The challenge facing museums of today is integrating video content consistently into their marketing strategy.

But another layer of video has rapidly come to the forefront of online marketing: video streaming. Following the example of opera houses and concert halls, a few museums are implementing live video streaming. There is a difference between a YouTube channel and live video streaming. A traditional YouTube channel can host past recordings of guest speakers, virtual exhibit tours, and promotional videos for upcoming events, while live video streaming is shot and broadcasted online at the same time. The latter theoretically encourages audience interaction through the posting of questions and comments that are answered instantaneously, and should increase and deepen the interest for events and programs. Museums have attempted live video streaming only very recently, therefore, there is little data available on its impact on museums. So far, it has been utilized to give audiences a real-time look at guided tours, conferences and curator’s talks, and other special events.  

Will live streaming actually add value to a museum’s mission and enhance the connection with the audience? Will it be worth implementing and devoting financial resources to the shooting and the live interaction with followers? By analyzing and monitoring existing live video streaming use by museums, I will investigate how live streaming can modify museums’ audience engagement and development, what costs and limitations it may have, and what benefits it may bring.