How to integrate podcasts within your online strategy?

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Case study: Rubin Museum Of Art

Rubin Museum of Art, New York
Credit: David de Armas

In Italy, the number of listeners and new podcasts produced has been steadily increasing for several years now, moving from an emerging trend to an established mode of content consumption among increasingly broad and stratified groups of users.

Many museums and cultural institutions have also equipped themselves with this tool: an interesting case is that of the Pole of the 1900s, which participated in the production of the series Next Gen U – 6 podcasts to navigate the European Budget.

Noteworthy, as an example of a podcast entirely dedicated to museums and collecting is Art at times by Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo: through the dialogue of two insiders, in fact, the different functions of the museum, how a collection is born and what are the languages of contemporary art are explored.

Finally, the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology in Milan has published two series of podcasts: one related to the visit and exhibition of the Leonardo da Vinci galleries, conducted by the voice of curator Claudio Giorgione, and the more recent one, entitled the discovery of the Sky, where observations of the stars and space exploration are explored in depth.

With an ever-expanding market and the low cost of production compared to other media content, integrating podcasts within one’s online strategy also seems the way to go in the creative and cultural sector, but with what end goals?

Case study: Rubin Museum of Art

Located in New York City, the Rubin Museum of Art’s collection is devoted to Himalayan and Tibetan art, and the culture of the central regions of Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Mission e Core Value: Access – engagement – creativity – scholarship

As specified on their website, the Rubin Museum aims to create a dynamic environment that stimulates learning, promotes understanding and inspires personal connections to the ideas, cultures and art in its collection.

Its core value consists of four founding pillars, where the involvement of the individual and the possibility of access to the museum’s cultural heritage is at the heart of their values:

“We believe in taking an open and active approach to engage any interested person to support them in understanding our world. We do this by encouraging deep connections and transformational experiences in a welcoming, pleasant and beautiful environment.”

About the Rubin Museum, sito ufficiale

Digital accessibility

As stated in their annual reports, accessibility – also ensured through digital channels – crucially supports the realisation of institutional core value.

Among the various initiatives to increase access to cultural heritage, the online collection database was improved in 2020 to make the works of art accessible to a wider audience, with the addition of 648 cultural products from the permanent collection.

2020 Annual Report
Credit: the Rubin Museum

The adoption of podcasts for the Rubin Museum

Entering the museum’s official website, one can immediately realise the importance and contribution that podcasts have had in the pursuit of the mission: the homepage foregrounds seven sections, including the collection, the programmes and a section entitled watch & listen.

In 2015, episodes of his popular series Mindfulness Meditation, instructor-led meditation sessions inspired by his collection of Himalayan art and cultural artefacts, had been released, averaging around 9,000 listens per episode.

Mostra | Risvegliare: Un viaggio del buddismo tibetano verso l’illuminazione Crediti: Museo Rubin

The results of the latest series created by the museum are therefore not surprising: AWAKEN. The podcast, hosted by musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson, explores the personal stories of ten guests who share their interpretations of the path to enlightenment and the meaning of ‘awakening’.

In ten episodes, the series delves into the personal stories of guests who tell how they experienced a change in their awareness and, consequently, in their outlook on life, taking as its starting point the artworks collected in the exhibition Awaken: a Tibetan Buddhist Journey Towards Enlightenment.

The series reached over 72,000 listens and made it onto Apple Podcast’s ‘Shows We Love’ list, thanks to the first episode featuring comedian and actress Aparna Nancherla as a listener favourite.

2020 Annual Report
credit: the Rubin Museum

Strategic objective: audience engagement and targeting

The ability to engage its audience with a judicious integration of its digital strategy through initiatives such as the virtual block party and the monthly online mindful connections programme is the product of a long process of strategic planning and development that has been able to make the most of digital potential.

As Dawn Eshelman, Head of Programmes at the Rubin Museum, points out in an interview, ‘through evergreen online content such as podcasts, the museum can continue to be relevant to its community’.

The case of the Rubin Museum of Art allows us to explore new potentials of media content such as podcasts that – already emerging in consumer practices – can become efficient tools, with low production costs, in support of the strategic objectives of museums – one of them being the strengthening of audience engagement.

All of this, provided that the production of the content is coherently embedded within the museum project and is able to fulfil certain basic characteristics of the making of the content in order to fall within the minimum levels of production quality expected by the users.

“Although the podcast market is a crowded one, I feel there is untapped potential, especially if you are able to offer something truly unique that can speak directly to your organisation’s mission.”

Dawn Eshelman, Rubin Museum Programme Manager
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