BLOG: Is the way we read reviews changing in the age of social media?

blogIs the way we read reviews changing in the age of social media? I think it is.

One of the main reasons I started blogging about theatre was because I didn’t want to be googling every second word to find out its meaning (as many of the major critics like to use big words)! I think a lot of people feel that way and are turning to bloggers for the everyman opinion. After all, bloggers are theatre fans and if you want to know if you are going to enjoy a show then surely that is the opinion you are seeking? Not the opinion of someone who has been paid to sit through a show they have no real interest in (I have witnessed so-called ‘proper’ critics sleeping during performances)!

I started blogging four and a half years ago. I don’t have a background in theatre, and I don’t have a degree in English, creative writing or Journalism (like a lot of bloggers do) but what I do have is a passion for going to the theatre. I started a blog because a friend told me I should give it a go for a bit of a hobby, so I did. I never thought that anyone would read my reviews on the world wide web and even if they did, surely they wouldn’t care about what I thought. To be honest I still find it funny when people comment on things I have written because I still don’t really believe anyone reads my stuff.

I still remember the first time I got given a free ticket to review a show. I had spent months writing reviews of the shows that I had paid to go to see, so that I could build up a portfolio to show people what my writing style was like and to show them that I wasn’t just trying to get given a free ticket. Eventually I got my big break and invited to review a show. As time went by the invites started to flood my inbox!

These days, it seems to be becoming increasingly easier for people to start their own blog and secure tickets to review shows as sadly, Producers seem to favour having as many different media outlets as possible to review their shows, regardless of the quality of the blog or website.

I think in the case of an article published in The Stage today quoting Theatre Producer Danielle Tarento saying that the online bloggersphere are not “proper writers”, the real question we should be asking is why, if these people aren’t of a good standard, are they getting the exposure they must be for producers to even be aware of their work? I have never proclaimed to be proper writer but some people seem to like reading the things I write. If my writing was not of a good standard then I should not be invited to review shows. I think that is the crux of the matter. Why are these so-called substandard bloggers getting the air time if they aren’t any good. Is it a case of one mans trash is another mans treasure?!

Danielle is quoted as saying “There have to be some sort of rules around it, and the way you do that is if you pay people, as then it’s a job and they have to fulfil certain criteria”. Surely the rules are laid out by PR companies, vetting blogs before allocating them free tickets to see shows?

Everyone is entitled to have a blog if they want to. If it’s good and people like it then that’s great. Whether you write for a newspaper or your own little website, the only people who can dictate if it’s any good are the readers. And if they keep coming back to read more, then you can’t be doing too badly. And if you’re being invited to review shows for free then you must be doing really well because PR companies wouldn’t just invite anyone who claimed to have a blog. Would they?