Shakespeare in the Digital Economy

Shakespeare in the Digital Economy, Dr Nick K. T. Yip (Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia).

It can be argued that when considering new economic models in the digital economy, firms might examine future experiences and new offerings that it may provide its customers. In that respect, consideration needs to be given to the three components of a firm’s business model (Baden-Fuller & Morgan 2010, Ng et al 2013): (a) how value is created in the firm’s brand communities (consumers of the firms’ services through its brand); (b) the appropriation of value from the brand communities (value capture); and (c) the firm’s revenue streams. In the case of arts organisations, and in particular non-profit entities, this may prove to be challenging.

With limited resources and more expected cuts to their funding (Pickford 2014), these organisations often find themselves lagging behind their commercial counterparts in adapting to new digital technologies and as a result, they are often unable to compete effectively in the digital economy. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) is such an organisation. Formed in 1847 following the purchase of Shakespeare’s Birthplace as a national memorial, SBT operates as a non-profit organisation whose mission is “leading the world’s enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare’s works, life and times.” They do not rely on government funding and generate revenues through tickets sales and fund-raising.
Currently, SBT derives 86% of its revenues from visitors to the Shakespeare Houses in Stratford upon-Avon. However, as the digital economy has begun to transform consumer experiences in the arts sector including that of theatres (Wade 2011) and museums (Srinavasan et al 2009), SBT has identified the need to explore more creative and innovative ways to integrate the Shakespeare brand and its communities. This is addressed at both the virtual (internet) level as well as the physical, i.e. visitors to its various sites in Stratford upon-Avon, with the material and physical artefacts held by SBT. One approach is to investigate the different types of value found in the consumption of Shakespeare by its larger audience. Whether this consumption is in the enjoyment of historical facts about Shakespeare or in his plays, or even in the academic study of both the man and his literary contributions, these different forms of consumption evoke very different types of value for the consumer.

Hence, this placement proposal aims to study the meaning of the consumers’ experiences (both the digital and physical), the different forms of consumption of Shakespeare and the different types of value this generates. This in turn might assist SBT with formulating new business models as well as inform other arts organisations facing similar challenges.

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