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V I I I . 6 Th e D i g i C U LT n a v i g a t o r t o o n l i n e
b u s i n e s s m o d e l s
Today, many cultural heritage institutions are seeking a place in the online market and are
looking for "niches" and business models that might work for them to gain some revenues
through online services or e-commerce solutions.The overview provided in the previous
chapters shows that there are many and varied business models cultural institutions can use.
But, as Jennifer Trant, AMICO, USA, has noted in the DigiCULT Online Delphi (round 1):
"No one model will work for all institutions - that's like saying there is one e-commerce
model.There will be many inter-related models in place in cultural institutions depending
on the aspect of their service that is being delivered."
Although, there is not one definite answer, a general orientation with regard to online
business models for cultural heritage institutions can be given, as well as a set of recom-
mendations for policy and institutional decision makers.
Online user attention and information
Selling user attention (e.g. banners on a web site) has low commercial potential. Offering
online advertisement opportunities might be a business line for major cultural heritage ins-
titutions, networks or portals. But, generally, advertisement for cultural heritage institutions
seems suitable mostly in the framework of major sponsorships for a project rather than the
whole web site
Selling user information is clearly not an appropriate line of business for cultural heritage
institutions.What the institutions themselves need to do is gather more detailed information
on their users to be able to adapt and further develop their services according to changing
user demands.
Cultural heritage institutions should use the attention they receive from visitors
for marketing their own products and services.
Cultural heritage institutions should gather and exchange user information in
order to adapt and further develop the services they provide to users.
For smaller, less known institutions cultural heritage networks and platforms
should act as aggregators of attention and provide them with user information
and feedback.
Developing and selling products: e-retailing
Selling physical products via online channels is an option and actually a practice of many
cultural heritage institutions (in particular museum giftshops). For small institutions it might
be a plus, for major institutions or specialised actors it can represent a considerable line of
Generally, institutions that want to develop an e-retailing business need to be aware of
the potential channel rivalry between their in-house and online shop. Additional costs for
the online business line might not pay off.
Prerequisites for success are to establish a brand and in particular to develop unique
products that are (ideally) related to in-house collections. Furthermore, in order to bring
their products to the attention of many potential consumers cultural heritage institutions