Are you a (media) snob?

by Smartie on December 1, 2010

Don't be snotty about which critics review your show. They all matter.

“The challenge with buying traditional media, said John Wagon, the vice president for marketing at Heavenly, one of the properties of the Vail Resorts group, is ‘paying for eyeballs of people who have no interest in what you are trying to sell.’” New York Times, November 29, 2010

I once was approached by a creator/producer on a project that was extremely interested in press coverage, but was aghast when I asked about comping press.

Granted, it was an extremely short run in a tiny theater, but holding a few pairs of comps for a performance or two for critics to review was not exactly going to break the budget.

She was seriously affronted at the thought she may have to give away a few seats. But she also wanted press coverage. Dilemma.

Realistically, her project wasn’t terribly coverable. A few performances in a small theater during a busy time of year isn’t the most appealing proposition to the media. But she would have had a chance for coverage with a few blogs and websites, perhaps a trade publication that didn’t mind that the show was already closed when the review ran.

But she was only willing to comp the big ones. But by withholding the tickets to the smaller fries, she just about annihilated any chance of any coverage of her show at all. And, while the readership of the smaller blogs and sites is not even close to the readership of the New York Times, the people reading the niche publications are more inclined to buy what she was selling.

Versions of this happen more often than I care to admit, frankly. I have been asked more than I care to remember to exclude certain smaller publications when inviting press in to review. Personally, I find that attitude offensive. The fact that there are people out there excited enough about theater to blog about it regularly (’cause blogging sure eats a lot of time) makes me happy. The “big” critics don’t seem as eager to be there.

So, the moral of this story? Don’t be cheap and don’t be a snob. If you want press coverage, it’s much, much better to be inclusive. Understand that press coverage comes in all shapes, sizes and platforms.

{ 3 comments }

Alan December 1, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Agree totally with your comments.

For example, newyorktheatreguide.com is an indepth news site for Broadway and Off-Broadway thatre, and yet some press treat us as nothing better then a pest when we request press tickets.

Often one is made to feer like a begger asking for a favour, rather then a legitimate online theatre news source provinding information to actual theatre goers.

If neworktheatreguide.com is treated like this, I hate to think what dedicated bloggers have to but up with.

Off the subject slightly, but what is annoying is when producers want to offer you press tickets for shows that are not expected to sell out, but as soon as they think they have a hit production, then forget it, they do not want your coverge for review.

Not exactly the best way to create a good relationship with online theatre sources.

What they do not realize is that it is the readers who they slight, and while sites may not have the same impressions as some newspaper websites, what we do have is a hardcore of committed theatre goers – the very people the producers should be interested in marketing to.

I suppose eventually they will get there heads around the new media, but how long will it take???

Smartie December 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Hi Alan

For the record, you know I have mad love for nytheatreguide.com! Sorry others haven’t been so accommodating with tickets.

There is, of course, a flip side to consider, which I am actually grappling with right now. When you have a hit (or presumed to be a hit) show, and suddenly people come out of the woodwork looking for comps! Of course, I have established relationships with a bunch of excellent new contacts this way, but there is always a bad seed.

Case in point, I received an email from someone (ID’d self as “blogger”) asking to see this particular show, and when I asked him to direct me to the blog he wrote for, he disappeared!

Often, I see this sort behavior in the old guard who have switched to online. The new bloggers out there are often very excited to cover loads of different productions, at every size and level.

At any rate, I do agree that YOUR readers are the ones more likely to buy theater tickets. They are the hard core theater goers.

Thanks for commenting! It’s great to hear from the “other side” about this!

Alan December 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I can understand that with new contacts PA’s can be rightly cautious about offering press tickets – where the recipient may simply be after a freebie!

One of the reasons I do not review myself – I did review for some years in London – is to make sure the press understand I am not asking for press tickets so that I myself can see a show. I always buy tickets for shows I want to see and have never attended a show with a reviewer.

However, when one has a relationship with PA’s that is over seven years, it is irksome to suddenly find that one is treated as a ‘freebie’ hunter or simply a nuisance, rather then as a legitimate theatre news source.

How many years does a web site have to be in existence before some PA’s stop growing suspicious of it when it comes to offering press tickets for perceived ‘popular’ shows?

Going by my own experience as editor of newyorktheatreguide.com it seems that with some PA’s it is has to be at least more than seven years.

Still things improve slowly, though they are still a couple of press agents I have difficulty with (more like damn right rude and unprofessional). I now have what I hope is a good working relationship with at least 90% of PA’s – the other 10% will finally give way to my persistance.

Persistence is the watchword I would give to any serious blogger or website that has taken the time to develop a useful source of online information (some sites are pretty appalling), and is also receiving substantial impressions.

Do not take any refusal personally, and continue to ask for press tickets for shows as they come up – eventually PA’s will recognize you

Also, if you want to be serious about being a critic, then don’t just select a show because it appeals to you, it is only fair to PA’s and to the producers (and more impoertantly to your readers) to try and cover shows regardless of one’s personal preferences

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