The insights in this section are based on three main sources:
- Experience. First, of course, is the experience of our consultancy team.
- Data. The two main sources of data are our Cultural Participation Monitor* (a survey of the whole population, including their digital engagement) and our Digital Audience Survey (used by cultural organisations on their sites, to understand audiences for their digital content).
- Collaboration. These are supplemented by understanding of venues’ core audiences, from our analysis of Indigo’s Act Two and Culture Restart surveys, in which we focused on digital engagement.
Browse the summary reports:
* The Cultural Participation Monitor is part of a national research programme led by
the Centre for Cultural Value in collaboration with the Creative Industries Policy and
Evidence Centre and The Audience Agency.
Summary of Key Findings
With the pandemic, we’ve seen a large-scale shift to digital rather than in person audiences. There’s been a range of innovation by organisations and acceleration of trends already taking place towards more digital distribution and digital-first content. However, although a much higher proportion of activity has been online, there’s reason to doubt that translates to wider reach overall:
- 45% of the population watched digital online cultural content in the 12 months before the pandemic.
- Only 33% had in the next seven months.
- This had dipped particularly for families and 35-44 year olds, for reasons which will be clear for anyone who’s had to home school…
Interestingly, the Cultural Participation Monitor Digital Report does show significant proportions engaging with VR/AR in the 12 months before lockdown:
- 7% of the population overall,
- but 15% of families with children, 16-24s, 25-34s
- and 13% of Londoners.
This suggests that this could be a technology whose time has come, but only with an offer designed for specific audiences.
What does seem to have happened is increased frequency among a core audience and greater differentiation between audience types:
- Segments with already high digital engagement (such as Metroculturals, Experience Seekers and Kaleidoscope Creativity) are engaging relatively more and expecting to do so into the future as well.
- On the other hand, Commuterland Culturebuffs and Home and Heritage have fallen back.
Notably, the profile of audiences who are engaging enthusiastically with digital content is strikingly similar to those expressing the most willingness to return to in person events. Although causes differ (e.g. openness to digital channels vs concerns about safety), the result could be that these two divides reinforce each other.
These differences within digital engagement are key. There is a range of evidence in these reports that suggests ways in which digital activity can be differentiated and targeted, since different groups want different things in different formats and digital can’t be one-size-fits-all.
That said, we're seeing high proportions of survey respondents saying that they are engaging with digital cultural content to ‘boost mood’ or ‘reduce anxiety’. So it is well worth considering that audiences are looking to online culture to support mental health and well-being when designing your digital content strategy.