S.F. Bay-area theaters target online critics
Press representatives for nine prominent San Francisco Bay-area theaters have just asked what they call “citizen journalists” (online theater critics and/or bloggers) to supply statistics on web traffic, “to demonstrate to our employers that the press passes we issue deliver a meaningful return on investment” – i.e., to help decide who should receive free reviewers’ tickets. The communication urges: “Please don’t fret about this! The report you send will not automatically qualify or disqualify you for attendance at any theater. Each of our companies retains the right to set its own policies with regard to press passes … .”
The San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle is studying a possible response. The ATCA executive committee will have its own response very shortly. Note ATCA’s own criteria for membership, which are relevant to this debate. The letter from the press reps follows …
Thank you for the passion you bring to the local arts community. As PR representatives for nine of the most prominent theaters in the Bay Area, we share your enthusiasm and commitment to this cause. In an effort to better serve local audiences, we’re teaming up for a comprehensive review of the reach and effectiveness of online theater coverage – and we hope you’ll be part of the team! We would greatly appreciate your help, and we encourage you to read through this message and respond with information that will help all of us flourish.
As we all know, ongoing changes in our culture have transformed the way people access information. Traditional print media continue to thrive, despite dire predictions of their demise, yet all of us have seen the increasing importance of online news sites, blogs, and social media. We appreciate your role as a citizen journalist. Yet everyone knows a life in the theater isn’t likely to make you rich, and every complimentary ticket we offer is lost income at the box office. It is essential for theaters to be careful stewards of our resources in these difficult economic times. Therefore, we must be able to demonstrate to our employers that the press passes we issue deliver a meaningful return on investment.
So we’re writing to you today to ask your assistance: please help us demonstrate the impact of your reviews so that we can continue inviting you to our shows. Going forward, to receive press passes, online critics will be expected to submit a report from Google Analytics, Visistat, or a similar service that documents web traffic on your reviews. This report should show the total hits and the number of unique visitors in the past six months or more. If you publish reviews on a personal blog, the report may be for the site as a whole. If you publish reviews on a large site such as Examiner.com, Forallevents.com, Huffington Post, or another host that aggregates content, the report must reflect actual traffic on your page or your posts. Please submit your report by June 15… .
Please don’t fret about this! The report you send will not automatically qualify or disqualify you for attendance at any theater. Each of our companies retains the right to set its own policies with regard to press passes, and this report is only one of many factors we consider when dealing with reviewers. The traffic data it provides will simply allow us to make a fair and informed comparison of the many opportunities offered to us for online coverage – and to clearly explain those opportunities to leaders at our theaters who are understandably concerned about the number of complimentary tickets we distribute.
We look forward to collaborating with you on this project, and please know that it is our hope to retain you on our lists. We are grateful for your support of local theater, and for the many years you’ve devoted to covering the local scene.