Serota’s bugle

Any good strategy is endorsed by the top dogs. The Tate Digital Strategy begins with a metaphorical bugle sound from Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate.

The future of the museum may be rooted in the buildings they occupy but it will address audiences across the world – a place where people across the world will have a conversation. Those institutions which take up this notion fastest and furthest will be the ones which have the authority in the future … the growing challenge is to … encourage curatorial teams to work in the online world as much as they do in the galleries.

Digital principles

The first principles, copied below, state the aims Tate’s digital experiences set out to achieve.

Tate’s audiences will have digital experiences that:

  • increase their enjoyment and understanding of art
  • provoke their thoughts and invite them to participate
  • promote the gallery programme
  • provide them with easy access to information
  • entice them to explore deeper content
  • encourage them to purchase products, join Tate and make donations
  • present an elegant and functional interface whatever their device
  • take place on the platforms and websites they use
  • minimise any obstacles they may encounter

Space on and off

One of these is to ‘promote the gallery programme’. This is very significant. Tate galleries have become a part of the digital strategy and not vice versa.

Rabbit holes

‘Entice them to explore deeper content’ is Tate recognising, very well, trends in web architecture. No longer can information’s mere availability online, a presence somewhere on a website, be thought of as an advantage.

Real advantage comes from website layouts that lure people in, to the right place, and offer them further places of exploration, without cutting off branches.


Monetisation is covered off in one of these principles, with the shop, membership and donations an important reminder that Tate needs to pay for itself.

In times-gone-by, this has been a difficult point to drive home to some staff in the museums and heritage sector, who are naturally a little averse to commercialisation, even in the world of modern art.

In profit-making, digital is an obvious boon, providing cost-effective scale that can’t be matched by a physical space. 

Ditch the clunks

 ‘Elegant and functional interface whatever their device’. Responsive design is represented as one of the nine principles of digital experiences for the audience. This is another key step in defining exactly what online experiences aren’t acceptable any more. 

Boldly go

This is followed by the principles of experiences taking place ‘on the platform and websites’ the audience uses, and without obstacle. Accessible content on, its micro-sites, social networks, youtube and on, is a bold principle again.

It’s an open admission that the world of the web is so expansive, we must give people content before, if ever, we lure them to our site.


The next set of principles, reproduced below, are about Tate’s approach. Keywords here are ‘insight-driven’, ‘open and sharable’, ‘centrally governed and devolved’.

To achieve this, we will take an approach that is:

  • audience-centred and insight-driven
  • constantly evaluated and enhanced
  • well designed and architected
  • distributed across multiple platforms
  • open and sharable
  • sustainable and scalable
  • centrally governed and devolved across the organisation

Unique content

Tate has a Content section to its digital strategy. I think the beauty of this section is that it should really be called ‘Unique Content’. 

This is because everything Tate does with content adds another string to its monetised bow, by virtue of its unavailability elsewhere. Whether the content is directly paid for, or drives membership sales, it is unique and, more and more, ‘evergreen’.

This should be one goal of every business that runs a website, whether publisher or, choosing an example from the other end of the spectrum, a niche-industry catalogue ecommerce company.

Tate has already digitised its art collection but now aims to add the archive and special library collections, including artist books. Digital research publications are already being published in connection with the online art collection.


Blog posts, videos, social media, email. Editorial is the new PR. Generating ‘content around the museum’s programme’; basically, don’t forget to do some content marketing – there’s no excuse not to.

This includes blogging to be ‘considered part of the working practice of most departments’, with associated ‘relaxation of controls surrounding who speaks from Tate’.

The same goes for social media use.


Here Tate goes as far as to define likely KPIs, which is transparency to be admired.

Significantly, it includes KPIs for communities (hand-in-hand with editorial), highlighting comments, shares and followers as likely to be benchmarked.


Some highlights in my own words:

  • Paperless self-service tickets.
  • Online shop promoted across all channels and on free parts of the website.
  • Free and paid content in gallery via the currently available WiFi.
  • Location awareness in gallery via WiFi.
  • Increase donations through analysis of optimum point in user journey to request donation.

Looking within

Any good strategy needs to look not just at how the audience can be engaged, but how the workforce can be empowered, and can do more for the organisation. 

Tate promises much. A change in training, policy, software and hardware, recruitment, induction, professional development and performance management all earmarked. Hub-and-spoke model identified. New governance structures to be introduced.

A clear call

The conclusion is that digital is soon to permeate, and that the right level of resourcing, leadership and engagement will be required from across the organisation. 

A clear note to start and a clear call to end.

Let me know if you’ve seen any other great digital strategies. If you’re interested in talking to Econsultancy about how we help organisations to transform, get in touch.