Has blogging diluted the importance of the theatre journalism?

In the last seven years, since I started westendwilma.com, there has been a huge influx of theatre blogs come and go. I wasn’t the first and I knew I wouldn’t be the last. I just wanted to share my thoughts on theatre with who ever should want to read it.

But I do wonder sometimes if the abundance of theatre blogs out there now (which is also turning into video blogs on YouTube), is somewhat diluting the importance of journalism.

These days it seems anyone can start a blog and get free press tickets to some shows. I was never (and don’t know anyone since) asked to provide stats for how many visitors read my blogs. Sometimes it seems shows will welcome anyone to review a production just because you tell them you run a blog – no proof required. I also have never really been asked for any statistics around who reads my stuff. For instance I know that the majority of my audience is women aged 50+. But no one has ever asked me to provide that information which could be useful to know if a producer were trying to promote a show aimed at that type of audience.

If I were looking to promote a show I would want to know what each blog has to offer me. How many readers, how much of a social media influence they have, and exactly what demographics are following that blog. If I wanted to promote shows aimed at young children, I would want to know that the audience of the blog I am inviting to review, covers the young mum demographic.

Recently I was asked to interview someone in one of the big West End shows. Having not seen the show for a while, I asked if it were possible to have tickets to see the show to prepare for the interview (with someone I had never seen in the role) and also to brush up on my knowledge of the show and consider questions I might like to ask. I was told there were no tickets available for this kind of thing. So I went in to the interview rather blind about how this person played the role and ended up making a bit of a tit out of myself when referencing a point in the show incorrectly.

I wonder if twenty years ago, when there were perhaps five newspapers and four television channels out there used to promote theatre shows, did those journalists get given a better experience than the diluted one we sometimes get now? It makes sense that you go to a press night, review the show and then interview someone in the cast shortly after. But these days it seems to be a bit of a mad scramble for bits of publicity when ever the show decides they need it. I have even been asked to interview stars of shows when they ‘weren’t able to fit me in to review’ the show originally!

I do wonder if producers sometimes know exactly who they are aiming their show at when it could be much clearer if just a few simple questions were asked.


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