Tate Papers ISSN 1753-9854

Tate Digital Strategy 2013–15: Digital as a Dimension of Everything

Through the development of a holistic digital proposition there is an opportunity to use the digital to deliver Tate’s mission to promote public understanding and enjoyment of British, modern and contemporary art. To achieve this, digital will need to become a dimension of everything that Tate does.

The future of the museum may be rooted in the buildings they occupy but it will address audiences across the world – a place where people across the world will have a conversation. Those institutions which take up this notion fastest and furthest will be the ones which have the authority in the future.
Sir Nicholas Serota 20091

1. Vision

Through embracing digital activity and skills across the organisation Tate aims to use digital platforms and channels to provide rich content for existing and new audiences for art, to create and nurture an engaged arts community and to maximise the associated revenue opportunities. We will achieve this by embracing digital activity and developing digital skills across the organisation.

2. Digital principles

Tate’s audiences will have digital experiences that:

  • increase their enjoyment and understanding of art
  • provoke their thoughts and invite them to participate
  • promote the gallery programme
  • provide them with easy access to information
  • entice them to explore deeper content
  • encourage them to purchase products, join Tate and make donations
  • present an elegant and functional interface whatever their device
  • take place on the platforms and websites they use
  • minimise any obstacles they may encounter

To achieve this, we will take an approach that is:

  • audience-centred and insight-driven
  • constantly evaluated and enhanced
  • well designed and architected
  • distributed across multiple platforms
  • open and sharable
  • sustainable and scalable
  • centrally governed and devolved across the organisation

3. Content

Given audience demand for high quality online arts content, Tate has an opportunity to become a more significant digital publisher.

Tate already has considerable strengths in this field, notably in publishing Tate Kids, Tate Shots, Tate Papers, Tate Etc. as well as the online collection and learning resources. We shall co-ordinate, extend and promote these activities to better serve our audiences, and intend to focus on the following four areas of new content production:

3.1.1 Digitisation of the collection

Having digitised the art collection, we seek to digitise the archive and special library collections, including Tate’s holdings of artist books.

The current Transforming Tate Britain: Archives and Access project will publish c.50,000 digitised archive items (approximately ten per cent of Tate Archive’s holdings), beginning in 2014. Digitised archive items will be integrated with artworks in the Art & Artists section of the website to enable user journeys between related material. With this infrastructure in place, it will be possible to continue to digitise Tate Archive’s holdings thereafter on an ongoing basis.

We will seek greater curatorial engagement with the online art and archive collection as there is a significant opportunity to manifest increased curatorial activity in digital spaces. We shall also examine the online representation of some artworks that are not best served by existing approaches and make changes to improve resource discovery.

3.1.2 Digital research publications

A new model of online publication – manifest in the projects The Camden Town Group in Context, The Art of the Sublime and J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours – has transformed collection research. Built as extensions of the online collection (Art & Artists) rather than as ‘stand alone’ publications, the projects take advantage of the affordances of the digital medium – rich interlinking, multimedia, multiple voices, both linear and nonlinear journeys etc. Another major scholarly project is in preparation, and a significant number of smaller In Focus projects that explore a single work, or a small group of works, from multiple perspectives, are planned using this approach and already developed software.

The programme of providing summaries on works in the collection, specifically on works acquired from 2000, will continue to provide accessible research content for online visitors.

3.1.3 Digital gallery experiences

Digital technologies will transform visitors’ experiences in the galleries. Wi-Fi will be enabled in all galleries, and extensions to the mobile website, designed for in-gallery use, will allow access to a wealth of information and interpretation about the works on view in the museum. Information staff will be able to access and share information with visitors using tablet computers.

Digital learning studios are planned that will offer facilities for new forms of engagement and learning experiences. Artist sketchbooks and scrapbooks from Tate Archive will be made accessible though touchscreens at Tate Britain. Interactive comment walls linked to social media have been successfully prototyped and will be deployed more widely at Tate Modern.

3.1.4 Digital editorial content

Editorial content in the form of short videos and blog posts are now the keystone of Tate’s digital communications. Using our own media channels – website, social media, email etc. – we are increasingly able to tell our stories effectively, as well as to communicate the programme through high quality content of lasting value. To maximise the potential of this content, an editorial centre will be established to co-ordinate and generate content around the museum’s programme.

3.2 Digital community

We view digital community activity as fundamental to achieving the organisation’s mission of engaging audiences with art. Social and communal activity is set to revolutionise many museum functions, as it is has already done with marketing and communications.

Tate has a number of successful community initiatives, including Tate Kids, turbinegeneration, blogs, social media profiles and Tate Collectives online. To build on these and extend community-focused approaches to more activities at Tate, we will focus on the following three areas:

3.2.1 Blogging

Curators now routinely blog about their exhibitions, and staff involved in research and learning projects are also beginning to blog more frequently. Looking ahead, blogging will be considered part of the working practice of most departments. Staff across the organisation will become communicators and the museum will have many voices – a shift that will need to be managed and will require a relaxing of controls surrounding who speaks from Tate.

3.2.2 Social media and third-party platforms

Social media has already transformed Tate’s approach to communication and marketing. Social media and use of third-party content platforms, however, are destined to change many more activities at Tate, offering new ways to engage with audiences and to distribute content where it will reach new audiences. We believe that there are significant opportunities for social media and new digital platforms to revolutionise the visitor experience as well as transform the practices of learning, research, curating and fundraising within the museum. As with blogging, Tate will seek to embed the use of social media across the organisation.

3.2.3 Learning and social collections

The current Archives and Access project will bring social learning features to the online art and archive collection. User-generated content will augment the digitised collection with audience voices and ideas. Design will ensure that these do not overshadow the other uses of the online collection, such as research.

The social value of Tate’s knowledge and assets is limited by the institution’s approach to its reuse by audiences. The use of more permissive content licenses – such as Creative Commons – will unlock this value and enable learners to repurpose Tate-generated content and use it in their own projects so long as their purpose is non-commercial. In this way Tate’s content will enter the wider digital ecosystem and be encountered across the web, amplifying engagement with art in accord with Tate’s mission.

3.3 Revenue

Digital products and services offer as yet untapped revenue opportunities. We aim to increase revenue through introducing new products and by transforming how we speak to our customers. We will achieve this by investing in the following five areas:

3.3.1 Ticketing

The introduction of a paperless, self-service ticketing service – now a norm in many sectors – will pose some challenges but once achieved will act as an important stepping stone towards an integrated suite of services around ticketing such as personalisation and access to paid-for content.

3.3.2 Digital products and ecommerce

The online shop will be promoted across all digital channels to increase revenue. As digital visitors use free content, relevant products from the online shop will be promoted to them.

Tate Enterprises and Tate have already produced a number of digital products such as online courses, apps, ebooks and a version of Tate Etc. for purchase through the iTunes newsstand. It is clear that this is an area of great opportunity for the organisation, and digital publications are expected to become a significant revenue stream in the future. Tate and Tate Enterprises will work together through the newly established Digital Publishing Group to make decisions about commercial opportunities within the digital sphere.

3.3.3 Multimedia tours to visitors’ devices

With ever-increasing numbers of visitors bringing smartphones on their visits and the galleries becoming Wi-Fi enabled, a Tate-wide approach to transforming in-gallery digital content is required. It is envisaged that a mixed model of free and paid content will be adopted. In the medium term indoor location awareness will become viable, improving visitor experience. 

3.3.4 Digital fundraising

Digital fundraising is now commonplace for individuals and institutions in the form of campaigns and donations via text message (SMS). Through analysis of the optimum point in user journeys to request donations, the launch of new online fundraising campaigns and improved communication of the case for giving, we aim to increase digital donations.

3.3.5 Customer relationship management

Customer records at Tate exist within multiple, unconnected systems (ticketing, bulk email, online shop, fundraising etc.), leading to inefficiencies and missed opportunities. This will be addressed through a cross-departmental analysis of business objectives. A large-scale project is likely to be required in this area in the near future.

3.4 The organisation

Digital is no longer the remit of a single department of museum technologists. All departments now have digital activity as part of their strategies and are looking to undertake significantly more digital activity in the years to come. The following three areas of change outline our approach to facilitating the transformation to a fully digital organisation:

3.4.1 Staff skills and engagement

New staffing models will need to be developed to ensure that staff are empowered to use digital as part of their work. Training, policies, software and hardware tools, recruitment, induction, professional development and performance management will all be part of the required transformation of the organisation.

3.4.2 New ways of working

Previously digital initiatives were conceived as objectives for a particular department and were delivered as such. Cross-departmental collaboration, however, will need to become the norm to ensure progress on an institution-wide roadmap of required developments. To facilitate a more networked way of working, a hub-and-spoke model will be adopted, with the digital ‘hub’ department coordinating and collaborating with ‘spoke’ departments across the organisation and in Tate Enterprises.

Policies and guidelines for the use of digital media – in particular, blogs and social media ­– will be collaboratively authored with staff.

3.4.3 Governance and leadership

Through an extensive process of consultation across the organisation, the digital team will ensure that the full potential for digital is expressed in divisional strategies and then realised. New governance structures will be introduced to balance digital ambitions with available resources, ensure that sustainable approaches are taken, and set the roadmap for change.

3.5 Analytics and key performance indicators

Development of rigorous analysis of our digital offer is critical to ensuring success. Key performance indicators (KPIs) will be developed for each of the focus areas. These are likely to include:

  • content: visits, repeat visits and dwell time
  • community: numbers of comments, followers, and sharing
  • revenue: sales, customer data, donations, and efficiency savings
  • organisational change: staff survey data, numbers of staff blogging and active on social media, milestones for training development, and establishment of new governance and processes.

4. Conclusion

The digital used to be the concern of one department at Tate but will soon permeate all areas of work in the museum. This transition will require the right level of resourcing, leadership and engagement from across the organisation.

See also