Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reviewing Art on the Internet in 2011

This post is the first of a two part "who's made a mark this year?" annual review of art from the perspective of an independent art blogger.  Have a break, grab a cup of your favourite beverage and a comfy chair and have a read and see whether it chimes with your perspective.

Essentially it's a structured rumination about art on the internet in 2011 and has three parts
  • what stayed the same in 2010
  • what changed in 2010. In this section I reflect on how well my predictions did and what I missed.
  • PLUS I make predictions about art on the internet for the coming year.

TOMORROW - I review what's happened to the art business and more institutional aspects of art and how the overall economy is having an impact on art and the online artist and art blogger.
I always start thinking I don't have a lot to say - but it's amazing how the process of structuring and writing a review ALWAYS makes me really think more about what's happened in the last year.

Other Reviews of Art

If you've written a review of art or art blogging or art on the internet in 2011 or your own personal development as an artist in 2011 please do let me know and I'll reference it on this blog in the first "who's made a mark this week?" of 2012.

If you like reading about what the past year looked like in previous years try checking out my previous "who's made a mark this year?" posts as follows:

Don't forget that the deadline for NOMINATION for the BEST ARTWORK on an art blog in 2010 is shortly after midnight on 24th December<
  • Links to the nomination threads can be found at the top of the right hand column.  
  • The results of nominations - including links to the art blogs of those who nominated - will be published later on 24th December

On to the first part of the "who's made a mark" annual review!

What stayed the same in 2011

In relation to blogging art, while much of the context has changed, the perennial themes are still the same as everI'll give you the headlines below - the explanations are much the same as they were last year (see Reviewing art in 2010 (#1) - the art blog)
  • Blogging art = improved art - it's the process which makes a difference and it really doesn't matter one jot if nobody ever reads it! 
  • The quality of the content is what attracts people to a blog. Whether it's the quality of the art or the quality of the information, it's the quality of the content which makes the difference. 
  • The art blog is like having a permanent private view - art collectors enjoy getting to know the artist, who they are as a person and what their art is about. 
  • Most new blogs - of any type - are still abandoned within 3 months
  • Networking and commenting on blogs remain the key to getting noticed.
  • If you like the art, chances are you’ll like the artists in the blogroll - so long as it's not an endless unsorted list and/or the links are not stagnant.  It also tells you a lot about the artist!
  • Bloggers still struggle with blogging fatigue - To avoid becoming a blogging casualty (1) find a frequency which works for you and (2) take regular breaks.  That's my recipe - and I celebrated the 6th birthday of this blog recently.
What happened to my predictions for 2011 

One comforting aspect about starting to write this post is that over the years I created a structure for this review in last year's annual review.  The less comforting aspect is that I might have missed a few things!

Generic predictions - about technology, software and social media

First the all-important technological context which continues to drive the change in terms of much of what we do online and how we relate to our audiences of fans and customers online.

2011 PREDICTION: Apple will continue to rule the technology roost.  ACCURATE At one point this year Apple was the most valuable company in the world.  Then Steve Jobs died.  Then I started reading his biography.  It's a major education in why Apple has succeeded over the years.  What's interesting for artists is to learn that Jobs' early preoccupation with design values, quality and consumers were all important factors which helped to change the way the world uses technology and communicates.  Anybody trying to be a success can learn a lot from that (and his book) - and that you need to have a few failures along the way before you get it right.  However Apple has competition and Android has been giving Apple a run for its money with its phenomenal growth in 2011.

2011 PREDICTION: HTML5 will happen in 2011 PARTIALLY ACCURATE - It made progress.  The current draft specification is not stable and as of December 2011 it's still under development.  Apps are being developed with HTML5 in mind.  However it looks to me that there are issues around how it remains compatible with technological advances.  I'm not too sure where this one's going but Apple, Mozilla and Opera have been influential to date.  (This is the HTML5 Test for your browser - which tests for the new features - mine scored 328 points out of a total of 450)

2011 PREDICTION: Multi-touch mobile computing will increase in importance ACCURATE  A bit of an under-statement as it happens.  In 2011, interaction via mobile applications EXPLODED!  Sharing via mobile devices (eg iPhone, iPad and Android) grew by a factor of 600% in 2011.

2011 PREDICTION: Broadband will get faster and cheaper ACCURATE I've certainly noticed that pricing is getting more competitive in the UK and the faster speeds are beginning to be more available although there's a long time to go before everybody has access.

2011 PREDICTION: People will live their life in a cloud ACCURATE OK, so I didn't predict one version would be called iCloud!  How dumb was I to miss that one! I'm seeing more and more competition by suppliers offering places where you can store your files online because they've spotted the fact that uploading keeps you tethered to that company.  I think the take-up by consumers is somewhat slower - but they;re prepared to wait for your custom - it's very valuable.

2011 PREDICTION: Apps, Apps and yet more Apps!  ACCURATE  I predicted apps would become available on the desktop - and lo and behold they appeared on my iMac. The Android app market grew exponentially - partly because the platform has been very open to developers.  Interestingly when major organisations have wanted an app they have tended to favour iphone apps over android apps.

2011 PREDICTION: Shopping online via wireless technology (smartphones, iPads, notepads etc) will become much more secure ACCURATE The use of mobile technology has a trendline which is virtually vertical.  (see Technology Adoption in 2011: The Story in 5 Charts).  There is no question that mobile ecommerce is the future.  Even those who are resistant to developments involving computers cannot fail to have noticed the impact ecommerce is having on the high street as major retailers disappear.  What I find fascinating is that while ecommerce has brought price competition to many retail products this has not happened for books - yet!  I find it staggering that publishers think that they can get away with charging virtually the same (or more!) for ebooks.

2011 PREDICTION: Online advertising will take the top slot and comprehensively overtake print advertising in 2011. ACCURATE ?? This post US Media Spends in 2011 : Radio Vs Print Vs Online indicates that advertising is moving online in a big way - because that's where the audience is going.

2011 PREDICTION: ebooks will consolidate their expansion in sales in 2010 and continue to increase in importance in 2011.  ACCURATE  This one far exceeded my expectations.  There are people who are now getting rid of all the print books just so they can have their library as a digital file in a cloud or on a tablet.

2011 PREDICTION: the pace of change will continue to be exponential with the trend being towards diversification across channels - ie more of the same with many new ways of delivering content. ACCURATE  Much of the change in 2011 was exponential - the charts make interesting reading

2011 PREDICTION: Users will continue to feel overwhelmed ACCURATE  I subsequently noted that other annual reviews were predicting that the curator - those who highlight things you need to know - will become more important in 2011.  I certainly got a lot of new readers in 2011.

Predictions about art - blogging and social media - in 2012

2011 PREDICTION:  Art Blogs are far from dead - but they are very definitely only part of the online picture for delivering art to consumers. If 2010 was the year when being mobile became a priority, 2011 will become the year where we catch up with what that means for each of us in terms of how we deliver and digest art and associated content. ACCURATE It's been predicted for a long time - and the good news it still hasn't happened.  I think I'd argue that many artists who were dabbling with blogging about art have now left the field.  Those of us who are still left are more focused on what we're doing and how we do it - even if we now post less often.  Blogs have become a lot more like mini websites. I still see very few people making good use of the static pages element to share what they are doing

2011 PREDICTION: Many artists will rationalise their involvement online.  ACCURATE There's a limit to how much one person can do.  In 2011, artists stopped spreading themselves thin.  I think I detected a move towards artists deciding which social media platforms they will use on a regular, occasional or very infrequent basis.  People are developing habitual patterns of behaviour with the more popular platforms rather than having to get to grips with more and more new applications

2011 PREDICTION: Expect to find more and more apps which cater for artists and those who enjoy the visual arts. (postcards / art collections in museums / art instruction / art books / websites for smartphones )  ACCURATE  with the caveat that it's less than I expected.  For example, the creation of ebooks for artists has taken off as publishers realise that  like the music industry they have maybe realised too late that the business model has changed.  Their investment is going more into creating new ebooks of old titles than thinking how they can use the ebook to create more a better experience for consumers.

2011 PREDICTION: Maps and location orientation will become much more part of the way we deliver content.  PARTIALLY ACCURATE It's very true for lots of different business - but not for art and artists.  There are isolated pockets of good practice.  However this remains an opportunity waiting to be exploited given the explosion in mobile technology.  I'm still waiting to see apps for Open Studios, apps for plein air painters, apps for suppliers of art materials etc.  I think I'm going to go off and employ a techie to make some for me!

2011 PREDICTION:  Shopping will increasingly move online (more art gallery blogs / more online exhibitions by art societies)  PARTIALLY ACCURATE Art Galleries are getting there - but there's lots of scope for them to improve and far too few have blogs.  I've also seen a lot more online exhibitions by art societies which have been a lot better quality than hitherto but still a lot less than there could be.  These were typically associated with those societies have grasped the opportinities that the internet has to offer.  These seem to be typically those with a high proportion of professional artists.

2011 PREDICTION: More artists will self-publish tutorials (based on or linked to content first piloted online through blog posts) and will use a blog to build and maintain and audience for their publications.  PARTIALLY ACCURATE I think I was too early on this one - and hence I'm going to reiterate this one for 2011.  It's not that it's not happening - just that it's not happening very much.

2011 PREDICTION: Some artists will give up on blogging.  PARTIALLY ACCURATE As I suggested it's more about changing the time spent on different platforms and less about giving up on creating content.  Some of those who have reduced their blog content have increased their presence on Facebook.  The lack of feedback seems to demotivate some bloggers and makes some feel like giving up.  I'd argue that it's worth keeping an eye on stats - how many people visit, how long they stay and how many posts they read.  People have less time to comment - but that doesn't mean to say they're not reading.

Other things I missed - in no particular order - are as follows:

  • the impact of the growth of Android/smartphones - from 1 billion in July 2010 to 10 billion in December 2011
  • the absolutely explosive growth in tablets as a means of accessing the Internet.  The consumer is finding more and more ways to use a tablet which just generates more and more demand.  Growth among artists is increasing.
  • Twitter providing a chorus for all major events from disasters to programmes on TV.  It verbalises what were previously private conversations and hence also provides analytical content for monitoring and/or predicting what people like and dislike
  • spikes in sharing via the Internet and social media applications were much higher in relation to the unexpected rather than the predictable.  I can't think of the relevance of this to artists other than it maybe points to a user blindness to anything which gets repeated often (similar to the way we stop looking at adverts on websites)
  • the growth in usage of Chrome.  2011 saw a dramatic decrease in the use of Internet Explorer as a browser and a major increase in use of Chrome which overtook Firefox and is now nudging IE
  • the introduction of the Google+ button.  This is Google's answer to Facebook - however sharing via Google platforms decreased in 2011.  I'm not yet convinced that it's a success although it's noticeable Facebook adopted the better features found on Google+ such as the ability to create specific circles.
  • watching video and TV via tablets - such as the iPad.  This has a lot of significance for artists creating video content for consumption on the Internet eg tutorials or art TV
  • Content shifting - developing ways of accessing content when it suits you is becoming more prevalent - "read / view later" buttons are more available and used more to enable people to access content later (and more often on a tablet) (Note - Blogger needs one of those!)
  • For the second year running Facebook is the most visited website in the Internet.  So if you're going to reduce time on your blog Facebook is a good place to go.
  • Facebook now gives greater weight given to personal posts rather than automated sharing. The reconfiguration means that automatic posts now don't appear in timelines in the way they used to

See Sharing Trends in 2011 for more information about changes in 2011.  If you want to see what were the most popular brands and search lists throughout 2011 try the Google Zeitgeist report - it's absolutely amazing!

Mont Ventoux and the vines
Mont Ventoux and the vines
pen and ink and coloured pencils

  • More and more artists are mobile blogging - particularly plein air artists and sketchers.  Even I sat in a cafe in Provence uploading images and text to a blog (Four Go Painting In Provence) this summer! (Thank you Liz for explaining about photogene)
  • Artists using Blogger are making more use of the static pages to round out the profile that the blog gives them.  Individual pages are being used as galleries by some. Some are now making their blog their main site.
  • There seem to be more group art blogs.  I keep happening on them.  They seem to be much more about community interaction around a common interest.  Small groups can now get online easily and without significant expense A lot of them are set up just for the people who are involved.  If other people enjoy them too that's fine - but that's not the point.
  • The emergence of galleries selling art online using "own art"- and artists using this to promote their own art.  It's not prevalent but it has started (see Sarah Wimperis The Red Shoes).  I'll return to this below in my predictions for 2011.  It's a very sensible move.

ART ON THE INTERNET in 2012: a few predictions

Generic predictions - about technology, software and social media
  • There's still scope for considerable growth in the number of people using smart mobile technology.  Smartphones and tablets have been the big story of 2011 - but the early adopters have a big rump of people who have still have to come onboard.
    • Apple and Android will continue to fight it out for control of the all-important app market - both mobile and desk-top.  
      • Android growth in 2011 has been absolutely phenomenal
      • Android is more open to developers and Apple is better organised for the consumer and has a better overall reputation for quality 
      • My personal thinking is that the winner will be the one with the best quality hardware / tablets / smartphones and most accredited apps.  Piracy is rampant on the Android side of things so my bet is Apple's business model is more likely to deliver - so long as it stays on top of quality
    • More and more artists will purchase kit from Apple in 2012 - that's sort of a corollary of the above.  There comes a point when people want to align themselves with the technological leader.
      • There will be an iPad3 in 2012 (something like 32 million people bought an iPad in 2011!)
    • Artists will get to grips with Opera as an important browser for mobile apps.  It will become more and more important as a testbed for artists sites online within a mobile context.
    • Microsoft could go the way of IBM - that's shorthand for saying the colossus looks as if it might just lose its way.  While it still dominates the software marketplace for office systems, they're losing share.  Microsoft is not seen to have the same status as the leading player that it used to enjoy.  
      • There is much more competition in the marketplace and it's going beyond the Microsoft vs Google/Android vs Apple triumvirate.  
      • Microsoft has been playing catch-up much more than is good for any technological leader and totally missed the explosive growth in apps.  It has also failed to innovate in an original game-changing way.  It needs to do something very special in 2012 to maintain its status.  A Windows 8 system which requires everybody to go out and buy new computers won't be it - because there's a big trend towards people being careful with their cash.

    Predictions about art on the internet in 2012 - the artist's perspective
    • Agendas for change will be influenced by the double dip recession.  Those artists who generate their income from art will be very focused on how the internet can help them generate income.  Galleries continue to close.  Sales are down.  The search is on for "what next".
    • Gallery blogs will take off.  By which I mean proper B&M galleries start blogging rather than online gallery websites run by people with no gallery experience.  B&M Galleries were slow to get websites and it's pretty much the same with blogging.  However the need to review business strategies within the current economic context seems to have provided a prompt to try and secure some of the movement of purchase power online.
    • Artists will promote their art on the internet to new countries.  
    • It will become more routine for artists to focus on how their art on the internet communicates through different types of technology (eg the phone, the tablet, the desktop computer and the TV screen) all of which have different screen sizes, operating systems and resolutions.  
      • It's not that the need to think about this isn't yet present so much as this way of thinking is far from routine.  In effect it's the next stage on from testing how your website looks through different browsers.
      • It also means artists need to think much more about what messages now need to be contained within a post rather than in a side column - because not all mobile displays show the side column!
      • Artists will promote exclusive access to dedicated blogs or parts of their sites as a way of encouraging engagement with clients and students.  This helps create a feeling of being special.
      • Artists will become more open and active in promoting online recognised schemes for stage payments for art.  This is really a development of the artist's own traditional 'layaway' schemes. I'm using the UK version OwnArt below as an example.  I'm unclear what arrangements are available in other countries.  I'll be doing a post about Own Art in the New Year
        • Artists working with galleries will promote national/gallery schemes for stage payments which make more affordable for clients (eg OwnArt)
        • Artists will encourage their galleries to apply to become participants in the OwnArt Scheme
        • Artists selling art online will become much more active in promoting their own 'layaway' arrangements
        • More artists will self-publish and sell tutorials (based on or linked to content first piloted online through blog posts) and will use a blog to build and maintain and audience for their publications.  James Gurney (Gurney Journey) led the charge on this approach to self-directed publishing with his two best selling books.  Very importantly, his most recent book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter has been a best selling art book for the whole of 2011.  
          • This repeats a prediction for 2011 where I believe progress has been slow to date.
          • As the recession bites, artists will need to think about how they can expand their portfolio of income streams - and sharing "how to" online is one way of doing this.
          • Huge change is happening in the publishing market - ebooks are becoming the norm and there's an enormous amount of scope for artists to create publications for other artists
          • Artists write a lot of good content - but don't always think so much about how to package it.  There's a LOT of scope to do much better.
        • Blogging and use of social media by major Art Societies will become more normal.  Art Societies woke up in 2011 to the need to expand their presence on the Internet and get involved with interactive web3 sites.  A number of significant societies now have a blog, a Facebook page and some even have a Twitter account in addition to their website.

        This is the long version and it needs to be shorter.  I'll probably try and sharpen it up if I have time!

        Tomorrow - the art business more generally.


        1. I just wanted to say that your blog is one of the most useful and most thorough blog of the industry of art making/blogs/etc and wanted to thank you so very much for all your time and efforts in each post. I'm only sad there is not a counter part in the US such as yourself. SO thank you and I wish you a very Merry Christmas !

        2. Many thanks Dominique - it's always very good to get feedback - and much appreciated

          It was a long day yesterday - I did the Christmas food shop as well as that post! :)


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