On Building a New Market for Culture: Virtue and necessity in a screen-based economy

​In 2008, the Strategic Content Alliance (www.jisc.ac.uk/contentalliance) commissioned Intelligent Television (www.intelligenttelevision.com) to prepare this report on new business opportunities to support commercial and educational institutions putting their digital content online. In 2008 and 2009, Intelligent Television staff conducted research and a series of interviews with senior executives, faculty, and staff at commercial enterprises and nonprofit organisations – including the Atlantic Magazine Group, the British Library, Cablevision, Columbia University, Condé Nast, Disney, Federated Media, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, the Guardian, Ithaka, National Geographic, the New America Foundation, New York University, the Open University, Princeton University, Siegel + Gale, Stanford University, and the University of Kent – with experience in the area and advice to give.

​This paper is the result of that process. In it, we propose that institutions responsible for culture andeducation examine their roles and responsibilities through the prism of three forces now shaping the future of the digital economy. The first is mass digitisation, as a result of which creative processes and intellectual work are going online with a vengeance. The second is the erosion of digital rights protection, as a result of which much of culture, education, and creativity is becoming – even often expected to be – free to end-users. The third is the commercialisation, through brand advertising, of display, search, and communication online, as a result of which consumers online and in the physical world are growing accustomed to seeing adverts on everything from their personal email to their Google searches, their mobile phone games, and their news.

In this environment, cultural and educational institutions – universities, museums, libraries, archives – should explore, perhaps with support from funding agencies, ways of securing advertising and sponsorship revenue from commercial companies interested in reaching people who visit their lectures, exhibits, collections, and other material online. These institutions should consider forming an advertising network to market their materials to corporate advertisers – selected advertisers who are likely to respect the material and the missions of these institutions while sharing with them revenue, equity, and other rewards of business. The point is that cultural and educational institutions have an opportunity now to engage, confidently – and on their own terms – with key players in the growing digital economy, and they should take it.

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