How did drama critics and theater journalists fare in this year’s Broadway audience survey?
Every year the Broadway League conducts a survey of Broadway audiences to determine, among other things, what motivates individual audience members to attend a particular show. They don’t ask the question the same way each year and respondents can choose more than one reason. Statisticians will tell you that these factors make it difficult to use the results to give precise quantities, but the results can reveal trends. In that way, they can be one indicator of the role of critics’ reviews and theater journalists’ articles in guiding the ticket-buyers’ choices
The news isn’t necessarily good for reviewers. Over the past five years, the percentage of respondents saying they chose a show because of a critic’s review has dropped significantly. Five years ago, it was 25.6% while the just released 2016-2017 season survey results show a depressing 11.8%. (The trend line was 25.6%, 29%, 16%, 21.2%, 11.8% over the five years.)
Adding theater journalist’s output in the form of articles and interviews, the total has also dropped. Five years ago, the total for reviews, interviews, and articles was 47% while the latest result came in at just 26.5%. (Again, the trend line was 44.7%, 54.9%, 33.1%, 44.8%, 26.5%.)
While the drop in respondents citing reviews, articles, and interviews is obvious, the growth in the internet and social media has been equally clear. Each year the questions relating to online activity have been different, so aggregation is clearly an inexact science, and unfortunately no question isolates the role of critics’ online reviews. However, totaling up responses such as “Facebook,” “Yelp,” “Twitter,” “Social Media,” “Blog” or “Internet Listing” each year demonstrated growth from 8.7% five years ago to 26.2% last year. (The trend line was 8.7%, 10.1%, 9.7%, 16.1% and 26.2%.)