Shaping our Organizational Transition
By Megan Andrews
A great big thank you to everyone who took our marathon survey in the fall. We appreciate your endurance. If it’s any comfort, analysis was even more of a marathon! But we learned a ton and really value your commitment in taking time to share your views. You might not have known why we were asking certain questions, but we have found your responses very helpful.
We’re in the process of a transition here at The Dance Current, building a new website and evolving our organizational strategy. Your input is essential as we make choices about how to proceed. This transition also provides the opportunity to improve what we do, so it’s great to hear about what you think is working and where we can do better.
As with most not-for-profit arts organizations, we do what we do on a shoestring. We have approximately two-and-a-half full-time equivalent staff, spread among four part-time people (Kathleen, Brittany, Michael and me), plus a stable of freelancers and our invaluable interns. Our revenues include advertising, circulation (subscriptions and single copies), private donations and public funding. It takes all of this – and a LOT of goodwill – to create and produce the print and online content you enjoy.
It takes about two to three months to build a print issue, and corresponding online content, from writer commissions to designed pages. A single feature article goes through approximately eight to ten versions in the course of the editing process, and that’s before it goes into design. Photos and videos are sourced, selected and credited (which we take great pains to do as accurately as possible), additional text elements created (someone has to write the table of contents and ensure all the tag lines and biographies are in order, for example). Ad spaces are allocated, artwork is vetted to our specs and then production ensues. We go through about 4 full proofs of the completed print magazine over the course of a week, before we give our printer the green light. Online content comes together more swiftly but still requires editing and image collection, all the while we continue regular posting of national performance and event listings, news, reviews and videos.
We put a lot of thought and care into what we do and from what you’ve told us in the survey, you recognize and appreciate this work, so thank you again for taking the time to provide your feedback.
We will carry on – and most definitely in print as well as online. You’ve told us loud and clear that print is still very valuable to you and we agree. There’s nothing like flipping through a shiny new magazine, turning the pages to be surprised by a spectacular photo, or pulling it out on the subway or in the studio to finish reading a great interview or feature article. In case you’re wondering though, we do have a digital edition of the print magazine available (via Zinio) and we will be exploring some new digital newsstand options in the coming year. We know that most of you still prefer print reading, but we’re committed to staying current with our media strategy and this is part of our planned evolution.
About that online reading, you’ve told us that you don’t use our online content nearly as much as print and that some of you don’t even know how much online content we create. FYI, we publish about three reviews per month, ongoing national performance and event listings, a daily video blog, news and additional web-exclusive feature articles. You told us you really like e-current and find it a useful source of content and updates. We’ll continue and have some plans to improve it to serve you even better. On the Social Media side of things, we were surprised to hear that 92% of you are on Facebook but that only 30% are on Twitter. We love to connect with you on Facebook and will keep doing that. Keep in mind that we’re also using Twitter more and more to disseminate Canadian dance news and updates, so consider creating an account to stay current with the scene and follow us @TheDanceCurrent.
Our new website is set to launch in 2013 and will present all this great content in a much clearer and friendlier manner. Finally and at long last we were able to secure funding (through the Ontario Trillium Foundation) to do this overhaul. Rest assured, we won’t be introducing paid subscriptions online, but we will be offering advertising and sponsorship opportunities in order to support our production of this content. You should be able to find what you’re looking for with no trouble at all. Keep an eye out for the new site in the coming months and be sure to let us know what you think. Please also share, like, and encourage others to join the Canadian dance conversation online at www.thedancecurrent.com.
Many of you told us you want more content that addresses critical discourse and issues in the dance field, and others said that you want more popular content, profiles, practical tips and info. In terms of our content, it’s a fine balance to manage. We want to serve our core readers in the profession, and we want to reach out to the private studio sector, to new and younger dancers, and to a broader arts and culture readership. Our philosophy is that if you’re passionate about dance, you’ll find something in the magazine especially for you, and hopefully by flipping through our pages or browsing our website, you’ll discover new angles and areas of interest that you didn’t know about before. We aim to expand all our readers’ perspectives on dance by presenting a diverse range of artists, practices, issues and ideas in a dynamic and accessible manner.
Publishing a niche arts magazine in Canada is no mean feat. Truth be told, we need more subscribers to support the work we do in order to sustain it over the long term. There just isn’t the population to support multiple dance titles addressing multiple aspects of Canadian dance, so we balance our content to fulfill readers’ thirst for critical discourse on dance and ideas, while also engaging students, fans and dance-interested publics with our broad ranging content. Our goal: to engage more and more people in the world of dance, and to educate and excite them about the art and practice in all its shapes and forms.
Over 80% of you think it’s very important or essential that our content connects to current events in the field. You also believe it’s key that we cover developments, trends and innovations in aesthetics and practices as well as in training and pedagogy. Over 90% of you want us to keep covering arts advocacy and political issues in Canadian dance and a good number of you think we should sometimes cover Canadian artists working internationally. We think these are all important points and we’ll keep developing articles on these and related topics.
But a note of invitation: if you think we’re missing someone or something important that should be included in our pages (either print or online), please be in touch. A quick email or Facebook post will do the trick and we will be very happy to hear from you.
We were surprised to learn that 30% of you read French and over 20% of you think it’s either essential or very important that we provide some of bilingual content. We will continue to do so. If we could, we’d be fully bilingual but the resources are just not available for complete translation or the associated design and productions costs.
A few other things we learned about you, that are not entirely surprising:
• 87% of you are female
• Most of you are between the ages of 25-55
• 70% of you live in urban areas, but most of you want to see regional and rural coverage too
• 30% of you read French
• over 90% of you trained at a private dance studio as a child or youth
• 98% of you attend live dance events, and you prefer other live performance (music, theatre) over museums and galleries
• 31% of you attend live dance between 3 and 6 times per month!
• 95% of you believe our Canadianness is important,
• And, you feel we have impact in the following ways, as stated by some of you in your words:
“The Dance Current allows the professional dance community across Canada to stay in touch with the main events and trends that are going on; it helps people feel connected to a community. It provides a voice for dance in Canada and allows documentation and promotion of Canadian events.”
“Contributes to intelligent discussion of the art form. Acts as a print and virtual "community centre" for the art form.”
“Promotes communication and awareness.”
“It is so important to maintain an archival document of Canadian Dance and it gives weight and depth to the history of the art form.”
“I think that it pulls dance across Canada together. I like the fact that I can find out about what is happening in other provinces through this magazine.”
It was certainly gratifying to hear such positive feedback in general on our work, particularly because it is still a labour of love in many ways. But perhaps more important were the critical comments and evaluations you provided, which we take very seriously and will strive to improve upon. I think we all know that it’s impossible to please everyone; however, with the variety of content that we publish across our multiple platforms – print, online and social, with some live events in development – we indeed hope to deliver content that engages, challenges and inspires all of our current and new readers.
Finally as publisher, I’d like to make the point that – whatever its form these days, be it print, online or both – a publication is a public forum; it requires, and serves, an engaged public. That would be YOU! We are media and as such, we mediate. By this, we mean that we strive to make sense of the topics we cover in order to facilitate greater understanding and appreciation by the broader public. Hence our current tagline: We mediate dance!
Thanks again for participating in our survey. We promise the next one will be more concise!
And congrats go out once again to our winners: Jane Ogilvie of Edmonton won a full-year subscription for herself and one for a friend; Mary Fogarty of Toronto won Dance Collection Danse's Renegade Bodies: Canadian Dance in the 1970s; and Miriah Brenna of Montréal won a $75 gift certificate to lululemon.