Content experiments for audience research and development

A newsletter can be part product, part research tool. It’s a thing that can provide value in itself and a way to generate ideas as to how you can more effectively reach an audience on their terms.

I also wonder if a really targeted and appealing newsletter could be enough in itself to cultivate a stronger relationship with the audience. If so, you could eliminate the need to alter physical spaces or add new programming that (you hope) appeals to parents as much as kids. That seems far more risky than testing a weekly newsletter written for a particular audience.

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Kyle Bowen
Less news, more letters, please

What newsletters in the cultural space do you subscribe to and read with some enthusiasm? Which museum professionals have a newsletter that you enjoy? Are there any museums, science centers or historical societies, that are putting out a newsletter with a compelling point of view — not just “here’s what’s happening at the museum” content?

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Kyle Bowen
When shallow metrics incentivize unethical behavior [video]

A list member wrote in about the ethics of inflating museum visitation numbers to retain funding, which got me thinking about the importance of the metrics we use to communicate successes.

This exchange got me thinking about the importance of the metrics we use to communicate successes … While it's not possible to control the metrics funders use, museums do have control over what metrics they use to gauge success internally. Why, then, do so many museums rely on such basic metrics, like website visits and pageviews, when it comes to audience behavior online?

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Kyle Bowen
A problem I can overcome but can’t solve

I think museums could benefit from a more in-depth understanding of their audience’s behavior online. So, I’m planning a service around Google Analytics for museums.

One hurdle is the software museums use. In a perfect world, once I’ve cleaned up the museum’s Google Analytics account, GA could be hooked up to whatever CRM/ticketing/member software the museum has. Then, I could create custom segments, set up goals, and we’d be off to the races.

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Kyle Bowen
Blackbaud whistles past the graveyard

Museums often look for all-in-one software solutions. The idea of having a single solution for ticketing, donation management, membership, and all the related CRM functions is tantalizing.

That’s understandable. Fewer moving parts for you to have to deal with, right?

But the software isn’t only used by employees.

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Kyle Bowen
Helping museums and science centers add value to more people’s lives

I haven't written much about my motivations and progress in refocusing my business to serve museums. I’ve assumed that writing about the how’s and why’s of design research would be more valuable to readers than talking about myself or my work.

But some of the museum folks who have joined this list in recent weeks have suggested that I should share more about why I’m focusing on museums and science centers. So, today I’ll share a little update on my efforts to position my work around these organizations.

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Kyle Bowen
Contextual Inquiry + Beta Service Update

Yesterday, I wrote about how Jobs To Be Done interviews could help museums better understand their patrons — going beyond demographics and zip codes to discern people’s ever-changing underlying motivations.

The thing I want to emphasize about JTBD interviews is that the inquiry is around the interviewee’s life — the discussion couldn’t be further from a satisfaction survey that asks people to rate their experience with the organization. The interview isn’t about the individual’s relationship to the organization.

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Kyle Bowen
When New York’s hottest club is your museum

During my conversation last week with Dr. Ari Zelmanow, one thing that kept coming up with the idea that museums could benefit from Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) interviews. (ICYMI, see yesterday’s letter for more on my chat with Ari.)

In a JTBD interview, you’re trying to understand the “job” that an individual is “hiring” your organization to complete. The line of inquiry is contextual — you’re not examining the individual’s relationship to the organization directly. You’re trying to understand the value of an experience within the context of the individual’s life.

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Kyle Bowen
Blaming the hammer

Last week, I spoke with Dr. Ari Zelmanow by phone about qualitative research for museums.

Ari is a former police detective who earned his doctorate studying human learning and decision-making. Today, he helps businesses better understand their customers to improve their products and services.

I contacted Ari because I wanted to get a fresh perspective on what I’ve learned so far in my research into the museum world. I didn’t record the call, but I did take notes, and Ari was kind enough to let me summarize his comments here.

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Kyle Bowen
Here's Why You Hate Your Computer

A form is not a conversation between a person and a machine. It’s a conversation between the person entering the information and another person who will later use that information. The software interface isn’t an end in itself.

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Kyle Bowen