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MoMA exec: Content engagement is more important than app downloads

NEW YORK ? A Museum of Modern Art executive at Mobile Marketer's Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2013 conference said the museum?s applications are driving ongoing engagement with its content years after their release, even if the total number of downloads is not significant.

MoMA is experimenting in mobile across a number of channels, including mobile Web, SMS and apps. The goal is to further the museum?s mission of educating the public about modern art, such as with an app that was created for a specific exhibit that ran for eight months.

?This was about giving people a reason to pause and explore,? said Allegra Burnette, creative director for the digital media department at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. ?Many people said it inspired them to come in and visit,? she said.

?Everyone feels it was a success from the number of downloads and the response,? she said. ?A couple of years later, there is still steady usage of the app - we are getting thousands of views every month.

?Engagement is more important than the downloads.?

Stretching limited resources
While MoMA has been offering a Web-based Wi-Fi audio tour of the museum since 2008, the museum recognized several years ago that the mobile program could be much more and encompass calendar listings, information about collections and artists, retail, activities and social networking.

However, it is building its mobile strategy in stages because it has limited resources.

MoMA launched its first apps in 2010, with one for iOS and for Android.

It also has a mobile version of its Web site.

While those efforts are broadly targeted, the museum has also experimented with more targeted apps.

For example, the iPad app created for the Abstract Expressionism exhibition that was meant to be used outside the museum ? unlike the smartphone apps which are meant to be used inside the museum ? as users prepared to come to the museum.

The budget for the app came from the marketing department.

?If we open up what we think of as marketing and take what we might have put into a banner ad and make app, what is the difference?? Ms. Burnette said. ?Can we learn more, do people come to the museum after using the app??

The app included audio and text commentary, bookmarking, the ability to share content with links back to online content.

Testing paid apps
The museum also tried creating a mobile project for a particular audience ? children and their parents. The Art Lab app for the iPad was also the museum?s first paid app as a test to see if apps could be a viable revenue stream for the museum.

The app was designed to inspire creative play while taking a closer look at the exhibits at the museum.

Originally, the app did not feature any sharing feature but after feedback from users, a sharing functionality with parental control was added.

The app was featured in the iTunes store when it launched, was number four on the list for paid education apps in the Apple App Store. It also got some press coverage.

?Even being number four on this list did not translate into very much money,? Ms. Burnette said. ?So who is making the money in these apps?

?You realize there is this very thin surface of people who are making money with apps and probably not in the education category,? she said. ?This doesn?t mean we think the app is not successful.

?We are playing around with pricing and looking at does it make sense for us to charge for apps or do we need of other methods of sustaining. Apps may not be direct revenue generators but may be indirect revenue generators.?

Final Take
Allegra Burnette is creative director for the digital media department at The Museum of Modern Art, New York