The Audience Agency has analysed data from Indigo’s Act Two survey to understand ‘regular and frequent’ audiences’ reactions to digital cultural content.

Among the key findings are:

  • That lockdown drove a large proportion of audience members (38%) to try digital content for the first time
  • That most of core audiences are potential consumers of digital content, even if they haven’t yet (86%)
  • That overall, online content was expected to be enjoyable, different but inferior to live events
  • That digital-first content is of particular interest to audiences, especially among those who aren’t the most frequent live attenders
  • There are substantial differences in engagement, interests and tastes by age, suggesting the need to differentiate digital offers.

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The summary diagram above shows the proportions of respondents at three stages, based on three answers derived from their responses:

  • whether they had engaged with online content before ('yes' or 'no'),
  • whether they did during lockdown ('yes' or 'no') and
  • whether they would be interested in online events if live events remained unavailable 'for the foreseeable future' ('yes interested', 'possibly interested', 'not interested').

The numbers given are percentages of the total audience, and the flows between the responses for adjacent stages are also shown.

Explore the analysis in full

Foreword by Katie Moffat, Head of Digital

This report gives a useful insight into audiences for digital content, based on responses to Indigo’s Act Two survey. For me, there are a few points which stand out:

Digital offers can’t be all things to all people: as with in-person events, when engaging online, different audiences want different things. Whether more traditional’ live streamed versions of on-stage performances, payment on demand to watch when convenient, experimental durational pieces or ‘born digital’ experiences, it’s not one size fits all. Organisations should be as creatively bold online as in devising live work, as well as promoting it with equal energy.

It’s important, though, that we don’t make assumptions about who digital work is for. Although younger audiences were more likely to engage online, there are many more older audiences for digital work for many venues and organisations, because they’re already such a big proportion of the core audience.

How you design the digital experience does need to vary by audience types. It was notable that although more younger audiences agreed than disagreed that they’d like to interact with others on social media, the opposite was the case for many older groups. Designing-in social responses may work much better for some than others (and therefore affect which channels are best to focus on for this purpose).

We also shouldn’t hide behind ‘technological barriers to engagement’ as a reason not to invest in digital work, at least for engaged live audiences. For most, the quality of experience was a far bigger barrier, with technology (whether equipment or skills to use it) only become more prominent as an issue beyond retirement age.

But what works best, especially for those who aren’t the most regular attenders to live events, is work that is specifically designed for digital: which takes advantages of the things that digital is uniquely able to do, rather than merely trying to imitate, or replace, live events. Where digital arts can come into its own is when it embraces the ways in which it can be something new and different, for example in Fast Familiar’s The Evidence Chamber or Double by Darkfield Radio. Both of these are a long way from the ‘rush to digital’ that put so much recorded content online during the first weeks of lockdown. While currently many organisations are not set up to be able to develop innovative born digital experiences, the last few months have shown a glimpse of what is possible and my hope is that there are increasing opportunities for everyone to experience, and learn how to develop, audience centred digital experiences.

Explore the analysis in full

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