One bit of confusion that we have begun to see (<– 4 links) regarding the 1stfans Twitter Art Feed is the notion that we are “monetizing” twitter because we are “charging people” to access the feed. I think there are several reasons that this is the initial reaction to what we are doing, but most of them have to do with the idea that most content on the internet is free and Twitter is a platform that is free to use. I believe that belies the idea of Museum Membership in general, and I want to clear up some of that confusion here.
1stfans is a Membership program, and like all Membership programs it provides benefits to its Members in exchange for their support. Members get more benefits than other Museum visitors. That doesn’t mean they are more important than other Museum visitors, it usually just means they have access to things that other visitors don’t: viewing exhibitions before they open, separate lines for admission, private tours with Museum staff, free parking, Members-only e-newsletters, etc. It’s our way of giving them something back in exchange for their support. With the 1stfans Twitter Art Feed, we are trying to do the same thing for our 1stfans: give them access to something that isn’t available to regular online visitors to thank them for supporting our non-profit institution.
Put another way, one of the goals of 1stfans is to give people who enjoy what we do online a way to take ownership of the Museum by becoming a Member. We know that the best way art museums create value is through art, so we figured we need to give 1stfans who access the Museum off-site a dose of art! That’s what the Twitter Art Feed is: not a cash-supported club, but rather an art-based Membership benefit.
In the last week alone, we’ve had 1stfans join from Vietnam, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, the U.K., and Australia. One thing that we’ve heard over and over from them and other 1stfans outside of NYC is “thanks for giving me a way to get some real value in exchange for my Membership dues.” For people that follow the Museum primarily online (because they enjoy our presence on facebook, flickr, and twitter, or because they live far away and can’t visit us in person), we think the Twitter Art Feed is a great thing for us to offer. It’s that uniqueness and dedication to growing our online community of supporters that is driving 1stfans right now.
Shelley will post this afternoon with her own take on the subject.