Monday, March 13, 2006

The Power of the Web: Art Bloggers

Update: I was a little unclear in one of my points, so I've clarified and revised it a bit.

There has been an online ruckus for a while now because some some bloggers who write about art are understandibly miffed because they are not getting press passes and press invites to some upper crust media events (mostly in NY and at some art fairs).

While this is not a problem here in DC (we all get press invites to nearly everything that goes on in the visual arts scene around here, and so do most other bloggers who write about art, as I see them all at the media events), it is an amazing lack of understanding from anyone in the arts establishment to deny, or most likely, ignore the important presence of some art writers from the Blogsphere.

Granted, at least one of the most vocal complainers is more of a petty, mean-spirited muckracker with a huge inferiority complex who delights in exposing the dirty laundry and woes and flaws and generally the negative side of the art museum scene, and is also somewhat of a regurgitating art writer superbly trained at Google University.

And I'll admit that he's is pretty good at what he has learned to do over the last couple of years in dissecting and exposing the insides of museum's less than kosher dealings and problems. And I'll even add that the cultural tapestry that makes up the visual arts arena, needs a muckracker or two.

Thus, if I was a museum PR person I would be tempted not to invite this Jack Anderson of the artblogsphere either (it would be like a Republican official asking Michael Moore to videotape their wedding, or Halliburton asking for Air America to come do an interview).

But he is still an online arts presence and merits a press pass.

And a sizeable number of the other cyberpeople out there who write about the visual arts, do exactly that: write about art shows, do regular reviews, commentary, etc. And a significant number of them, do add intelligent, and fresh critical, and constructive conversation, and regular reviews to the contemporary arts dialogue.

So it is stupifyingly backwards-thinking to ignore the fact that them/us bring to the artmosphere a refreshing new breath of words -- and here's the main reason why it is stupid to ignore art bloggers as press entity: publicity.

Putting my art dealer hat on: PUBLICITY!

It's all in the numbers, and the new demographics that these cyber writers are now reaching.

Let's take DCist for example.

I don't know how many hits DCist gets a day, as they hide their counter, but I am certain that it is in the thousands. Certainly more than all other visual arts online blogs combined. I repeat: more than ALL of us art writers, art critics, art observers and art muckrackers combined.

This potential fact presents the interesting possibility that Heather Goss and Adrian Parsons may be now the two most widely read art online local writers/critics in the Greater DC area, and (depending how DCist ranks with all the other ists) in cyberspace!

Simple numbers: Goss and Parsons.

Not Campello nor Kirkland or Silverthorne or the rare Capps review or Jack Anderson, or anyone else on the blogroll who may write every once in a while about a DC art art show (although combined we probably all add up to 2-3 thousand hits a day).

And because not everyone who picks up a Washington Post reads Gopnik or Dawson or O'Sullivan, and not everyone who picks up the City Paper reads Cudlin or Jacobson, that immediately seems to put both Goss and Parsons as one of the top seven most-read art writers in the capital city of the United States of America, and I would venture to say that they are (by the virtue of whom they write for) the most widely read Washington-based online art writers on the planet (and they're unpaid!).

And I would submit that (because of the format and demographics of a site like DCist), a large percentage of people who visit the DCist website, read or at least glance at any and all new posts; that's the nature of Blog "reading."

And thus... is it so far of a stretch to realize that DCist's art writers are reaching more people on a daily, immediate basis, than Dawson or Gopnik, et al. do on a twice-a-month basis?

Do they carry the same "umpf"? Not yet.

But "umpf" is often only good for the artist's resume and for the critical standing of a gallery or museum show's attendance numbers, and (in DC anyway) to a lesser extent, for art sales.

And if a museum director or PR person "knew" that a DCist review would get them an extra 200 visitors, or a gallerist knew that the same review would get them an extra 25 visitors and an additional potential sale... would they invite those bloggers to a press preview and/or give them "press passes"?

In DC it's already done, so it's not an issue here.

Somehow, in the center of the art universe, in that little island near Brooklyn, it seems to be an issue.

Wake up.

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