Monday, June 28, 2010

A Blog Entry About Blogging About the Arts

So as many of my readers will now, I spent the last few days at the Americans for the Arts convention in Baltimore (along with many of you!). I spoke at a session on arts blogging, along with Graham Dunstan who oversees the Americans for the Arts ArtsBlog, Barry Hessenius of Barry's Blog, and Chad Bauman of Arts-Marketing. The session was also attended by such widely-read arts bloggers as Andrew Taylor and Ian David Moss. [That's Graham, Chad, me and Barry in the photo - "the arts bloggers posse". I added the photo to this entry after I first posted it, when I discovered this photo on the Americans for the Arts Flicker site.]

I also attended a session on utilizing new social media (like Twitter, blogs and Facebook) that featured Brian Reich, whose company is little m media. His mother, an Americans for the Arts board member who I am friendly with calls him "the next Dan Pink."  Now while this may be to some extent parental bias, I wouldn't rule it out. Brian is a great presenter and writer with really insightful and refreshing perspectives on social media. I think the arts community ignores his advice at its peril.He is blunt and irreverent and not afraid to puncture our illusions - I think we need that. I can't begin to capture Brian in this entry - read his book, hear him speak if you get the chance, follow him.

So, needless to say, the whole issue of blogging is very much on my mind - Why did I started this blog, and why do I do it? How do I choose what to write about? How often do I wrote?  Is it too infrequent - quality versus quantity?  How to get people to actually read it, and when I do, how to know that they are - or even WHO they are?

This blog is really a hybrid - I write about stuff my Office is doing as way of shamelessly using the blog as a communications tool to share our work, locally and nationally. I also use it as a tool to sometimes share information on interesting work some of our local Philadelphia arts groups are doing - again, both to spread the work locally, as well as to let readers not in Philadelphia know about projects I think are notable. BUT, I also use the blog as a  way to write about arts/creative economy issues that are bouncing around my head and need to be let out or they will drive me crazy, or to share interesting arts/creativity studies or stories from around the country or around the world. I try to balance the personal and professional.

One issue talked about in the blogging session was the issue of frequency - the importance of blogging when something is really important to you, rather than forcing yourself to stick to a schedule of, for example. two entries a week. Seemed to be no consensus on this. Quality definitely more important than quantity, yet Barry sees a value in people knowing that, say, every Monday morning they will get a blog entry. Some talked about seeing a marked increase in readership when their blog entries went over a certain threshold, say two entries a week.

Another issue was how people read blogs now, and the challenge of building readership and attention. It seems that commenting on blogs is really waning, so blogs are much less the interactive forum some thought they might be. Also, with the proliferation of blogs out there, most people don't regularly go directly to the blog sites to read them. People are subscribing to get the blog entries via email, people are subscribing for RSS feeds, and people are getting the blog updates via Facebook and Twitter. Essentially because of information overload the blog entries need to be "pushed" in front of people.

The issue was also raised of whether bloggers are journalists, and there were a couple of interesting  perspectives on this. Someone from the PR side said she divided bloggers into three categories (if I am remembering them correctly): those that do fall in a journalist-like category, those that are respected thought or opinion leaders, and the third category for the ranters and the wackos. Someone else, who had a long career on the journalism side, said most recognized bloggers seem to her to be like newspaper columnists, but without the control of oversight of editors. I suppose there is some truth in that. I, for one, have had the capacity to write about things that interest me for a good part of my career - starting with Theatre Times, a newspaper that used to be published by ART/NY that I founded and served as Executive Editor of, and that I often wrote for; the Arts & Business Quarterly of the national Arts & Business Council that began as a print publication and shifted to digital, and then through the many Americans for the Arts vehicles - newsletters, ArtsBlog, etc.

For me, blogging is just an extension of the first-person sort of writing I have been doing throughout my career on other platforms. But even though this blog has a linkage to my job, I do feel like I am now truly writing for myself. If NOBODY read it I would still write, because it has become a form of journal-keeping ("Dear Diary, today I had an interesting policy discussion about international cultural was neato") that often helps me vent, helps me organize my thinking, whether it is read or not. Also, frankly after about 15 years of working at the national and international level on cultural policy, arts management and creative economy issues, the Blog gives me the vehicle for continuing to participate in those debates and perhaps bring that dialogue to a Philadelphia audience.

So, in the interest of helping me - and others (I will share the input I get via email, but feel free to use the relatively under-utilized COMMENT feature for your answers; if you are going to comment, please comment on the blog directly and not on Facebook so we can keep them all in one place), please let me know...

  1. Do you feel that the frequency of my blog entries is about right, too infrequent, (or even too frequent - maybe you just want me to shut up!)?
  2. What do you think about the balance between personal and professional?  Is it OK that I do both in one blog?
  3. What do you think about the local vs. national balance? Are you a reader from outside Philly, in which case do you mind the more locally-directed entries?  Or are you a local Philly reader, in which case do you mind the non-Philly-centric entries?
  4. Do you like it better when I embed links and visual content like photos and video clips?
  5. How do you get to the blog? Do you hear about new entries via Feedburner subscription, Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth, Google alerts, other? If you end up getting multiple notices, because we are connected on multiple platforms, does it annoy you? {NOTE: I just recently added a simple e-mail subscription link at the top on the right side of the page - if you want to get updates via email, please sign up!)
  6. What other arts-related blogs do you read that I should know about that are NOT already on my "recommended blogs list" on my site?
  7. Any other advice or guidance?



  1. Hey! It was great to finally meet you at the session. I'll be a sport and be the first to answer your questions:

    1. I think the frequency is great. It would be fine if you posted a little more frequently, but wouldn't want you to do it if it meant sacrificing quality even one bit.

    2. I love the balance between personal and professional on your blog, and think it's wonderful that you're able to do so being in a government position. That's very rare and refreshing.

    3. I'm not in Philly, and therefore the content that's super-specific to Philly is less interesting to me. I also would find the blog less interesting if there started to be lots of stuff like event announcements and whatever. I'd recommend a different forum for that.

    4. Media is nice, but not essential for me. I'm much more interested in your thoughts and perspective.

    5. I get it on Google Reader and nowhere else (that I know about). It's probably in my Twitter stream but I don't see it since I don't use Twitter that much.

    6. I recommend Guy Yedwab's blog, CultureFuture - really interesting stuff. Parabasis is also a big one in the theater world, and 2am Theatre is a source for lively conversation.

    7. Just keep up the good work! And, if you decide to get more serious about getting the blog out there, you might consider migrating to Wordpress and getting a dedicated domain (one that is NOT

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful post Ian - it was great to finally meet you in person as well! This was very helpful. Now we will find out if you are not only the first - but also the ONLY one to chime in with answers to my questions...

  3. Enjoyed this Blog!!! Good work. The Ferret King

  4. It's looking that way! In the meantime, though, here's another blog you should definitely be reading if you aren't already:

  5. Hi Gary,

    I went to the session on Arts Blogging, and I really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

    1. I haven't read through the blog yet, so I don't think I can comment on that!

    2. I definitely believe that it is alright to combine personal and professional in one blog, as long as that is clear to the reader. I have found that I need to keep a personal blog very separate from my professional life. However, I don't think it's a bad idea to combine the two as long as you are able to draw a clear line when necessary.

    3. Not sure yet.

    4. I definitely like some visual cues with blog posts, although I don't think they all need them. I believe the text should stand alone, but visuals can add a lot.

    5. This is my first visit. I'm afraid I'm not very helpful here!

    6. I am just beginning to read arts blogs.

    7. So far, I am really enjoying your blog. I will definitely come back.