Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

Museum Audio Marketing Trend: Personalized Audio Tours

Museum marketing with personalized audio toursThe traditional museum audio tour is static: Visitors rent the tour, which comes loaded onto bulky audio equipment, and let the tour instruct their visit. If someone is more interested in modern art than Roman sculpture, they can skip through the Roman section but aren’t given the chance to learn more about their main interest. Museum audio tours are changing. Instead of the traditional headset, tours are using consumer mp3 players, handheld PCs, and smart phones to deliver interactive, personalized audio content.

  • The Museum of Modern Art in New York City offers visitors 5 audio tour options: “Special Exhibits,” “The Collection,” “Kids,” “Teens,” and “Visual Descriptions.” Each of these is designed for a very specific, segmented audience, with content appropriate and appealing for that group. MoMA also gives visitors the option of using the museum’s audio tour equipment or downloading the tour directly onto their mp3 player or computer to use inside the museum or at home.

  • Similarly, the Singapore Science Center creates personalized audio tours by asking visitors how much time they have to spend at the museum and what they are interested in.

  • At the Getty Museum, patrons can create a customized audio tour at home, before they visit the museum in person. Online, they can select the works they’re interested in and receive an audio tour loaded with this content when they arrive.

  • The Tate Modern’s approach is somewhat different. Instead of asking visitors what content they’d like to receive, they provide visitors with hand held computers, connected to the museum’s WiFi network, that deliver audio tour content based on proximity to certain pieces of art. Visitors can also view multimedia like videos, interviews, and visitor-taken pictures of the exhibits.

  • Alternative audio tours are also becoming popular. These tours rely not on the information presented by the museum itself, but on information and impressions from outsiders.

    • Students from Marymount Manhattan College recorded their thoughts on some MoMA artworks as a class assignment. Their reactions to these artworks were truthful impressions, and some were included by MoMA in official museum content.

    • Slate has developed “unofficial” audio tours for major museums, using their own art critic to explain the “real” story of artworks: what makes them important or why they might be overrated. Their goal is to combine the truthfulness of DIY audio tours with the professionalism of “official,” museum-produced tours.

The growth in personalized audio tour content shows a push from museums to create more interactive marketing. Peter Samis, the Director of New Media and Technology at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has said that museums have to be “able to deliver messages just in time. Visitors want to know about an artwork when they are standing in front of it. If they leave the gallery, you’ve lost them.” These new audio tours allow visitors to interact more with artworks, but they also have the ability to allow for social interaction between visitors, by allowing them to share audio recordings or pictures with each other. Revitalizing the museum audio tour can help move museums further into the virtual world.

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Tags: hospitality, marketing, customer experience