Back to the future of content experiments for audience R&D

(Reading time: 2m, 35s)

A few weeks ago, I asked what museum newsletters you all looked forward to reading and wondered about the ways content might be used for audience research. As an example of a question a museum might explore using content, I shared a report by Reach Advisors, which I summed up this way:

Moms take their kids to children’s museums for the kids — not for themselves. They aren’t “engaged” with the museum. A visit to the museum for many moms is a matter of setting their own interests aside and satisfying one or more goals they have for the child.

The study suggest that children’s museums could benefit from finding ways to make the museum a destination that appeals to moms, not just kids.

List member Randi Korn replied (shared with permission):

One of the ways that children’s museums have tried to attract moms/families’ attention is by offering parental tips (we have tested a few)—parents were put off! Even though the museum’s intentions were good, parents perceived a different message: that they weren’t doing a good job at parenting their child …

I can see how that type of content might not go over well with parents. I'm not sure parenting tips reflect the museum’s expertise either. I can see how a museum might use that sort of content to try to present itself as an ally to parents, but there’s no unique value to be had there — the competition for that kind of content can be found while waiting in line at a grocery store.

Randi continues:

… But more important, parents appeared, based on observations of them attending to their phones or newspapers, that they wanted a break from parenting.

Many parents feel joy when their child feels joy and don’t need anything more to know that they have done the right thing by bringing their kid there.

This questions the whole premise that children’s museums might invest in making the museum a destination for parents or using content to build stronger relationships with them. It’s a good question. I wanted to use the report as a way to illustrate an idea, and I hurried past the question “should we?” to “how might we?”. I’m not sure it’s possible to answer the former without diving into the dependencies and circumstances of an individual museum.

I’m still curious about the possibility of using content as a tool to develop a relationship with parents, though. Is there an overlap between the museum’s expertise and parents’ interests? What can the museum offer to parents that they can’t find elsewhere? Could content be used to make parents view the museum as something more than a break from parenting?

Hold on —

Do you hear that?

It’s like a rustling sound coming from the back of my mind.

It’s getting louder …

It sounds like a research experiment is headed our way.

Why speculate when we could talk to people and find out?

I could recruit and interview mothers who subscribe to museum newsletters (a segment of the Reach Advisors study) … Actually, let’s have them be members of a children’s museum as well — even if a parent is only using membership as a cost-savings measure and not a way to support the museum, it still suggests a greater interest in the museum’s offerings.

I probably won’t come away with a perfect answer to the question of what kind of content a museum might produce, but it’ll be interesting to see what I can learn from interviewing. Few museums seem to be doing this kind of research, so let’s you and I do it together.

I need to think this through over the next few days, but let's plan on investigating this further right here, right now.

Who's with me??

Thanks for reading,


Kyle Bowen