More About YouTube
Museums are starting their own channels on YouTube in ever greater numbers. At this session presenters from The Exploratorium, San Jose Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, MoMA, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art shared their goals, frustrations and insights about operating a channel on YouTube.
The subjects of the videos on the Exploratorium’s channel expand the definition of “science” to incorporate things you might not normally think of. For example, live web cam videos where you can watch scientists in the Antartic getting suited up to go out to work. It takes a while! Or you can watch visitors to the Museum respond to an invitation to drink water out of a toilet, in Mind, a new exhibition where you get to explore how your own mind works.
They have staff curated playlists on their channel, and are training teen docents to shoot their videos. Nicole Minor, presenting for the Exploratorium, made an important observation based on their experience: building a social network on your channel is a real challenge. Yet building that community around your content is the goal, it’s the reason to be on YouTube – so your museum can reach out to and nurture a new audience who are interested in your content. YouTube offers your museum a different way of presenting itself to people, of enlarging its “persona” on the web, showing a new side of itself. The network grows in response to the effort you make to find interested people and engage them in “conversation,” as The Indianapolis Museum of Art learned.
IMA accidentally found success on YouTube by producing “how to videos” targeted to small but dedicated audiences interested in origami and calligraphy. As Dan Dark said, they had to get over the fact that people were not looking for the IMA brand; they were looking for content that mattered to them. Instructional videos are popular, easy to produce, and easy to promote by linking to subject blogs and participating in subject based community forums. Dan understood that IMA needed to participate as a member of the YouTube community so he looked for similar videos on other channels, used the same tags, and engaged in a dialogue with others interested in these subjects. Their origami videos have been viewed several thousand times.They feature Dr. Robert J. Lang, a physicist and engineer with a passion for origami, who has used this expertise to design the way airbags are folded to deploy immediately when needed, and to enable expandable space telescopes, among other amazing things!
IMA’s videos feature Lang creating origami ducks, swallows and scorpions, but you can begin to see the kind of connections that are possible. IMA has also posted other types of videos of course, and you can watch them all here.
David Hart at MoMA picked up the community theme when describing the situation of MoMA’s channel. It’s very time consuming to moderate comments, at least half of which are spam. Occasionally they see negative comments, but there are some really great ones too. Is it worth all the trouble? How do you evaluate the success of your channel? Is it number of views? Probably not since, as David stated, the farting panda video will definitely get more views than our videos will, even the artist Doug Aitkin’s, which had over 100,000 views.
But two people who watched Aitkin’s video on MoMA’s channel were inspired to produce and upload response videos, and there are more than 75 comments, some in response to the video and some in response to other peoples’ comments. I got the impression that the people who made most of the comments were familiar with Aitkin’s work already, and love it or hate it and wanted to let MoMA know how they felt. This channel has become a place for people to speak to the Museum and to each other. You can see how the next step is for MoMA to respond to the commenters and begin to have to a real conversation.
While I was at MW2008 I interviewed Kevin von Appen, Associate Director of Daily Operations at the Ontario Science Center, about their web video strategy, and in particular their YouTube channel. Kevin and OSC have been active in this area since October 2006. He’s a firm believer in the potential and value of the conversations that are possible, and has some wonderful insights and useful advice for how to think about representing your museum using video on the web. That interview will appear here in the next few weeks.