What I’ve learned from six years of theatre blogging

Holy shit, six years. Don’t I have anything better to do? But as WordPress has been keen to remind me, that’s how long I’ve been running this blog. Three years ago, I wrote What I’ve learned from three years of theatre blogging. It’s interesting for me to read my old articles, but looking at this now, there’s nothing where I’ve really changed my mind.

But now I’ve made it to six years (and I vigorously deny all those vicious rumours that I planned to do this for five years but I never got round to it), it’s a good time to add some new things. Some of them things I was close to learning anyway – on or two, however, are eye-openers, and not in a good way.

Let’s go.

1: You have responsibilities

When I started doing this on a whim back in 2012, the last thing I imagined is that this would actually matter. Most plays, I just assumed, got plenty of “proper” reviews, and mine would be added to the pile. The most difference I thought this would make is that it would provide some constructive feedback that performers would be free to heed or ignore as they pleased.

What I hadn’t realised was how rare a commodity a review is. Outside of productions programmed by major theatres, it’s difficult to get any kind of coverage. Your review in a self-published blog may be the only one. It could be the only source of constructive feedback a group gets. You could be the only evidence a group has when making an arts council grant. It could spell the difference with whether or not other review publications give them a chance in the future. Continue reading

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What you read in 2016

I know you’re all dying to get stuck into 2017 and maybe your optimism’s buoyed by no-one of David Bowie’s calibre having died yet, but one final thing to close off 2016 is a retrospective of what you guys read the most on my site. Always interesting to see what interested you the most.

Most read articles written in 2016

So, what did I do last year that raised eyebrows one way or the other. I’m going to exclude roundups of festival fringes here because they’re at an unfair advantage for obvious reason, but apart from that, what grabbed your attention.

(Obvious caveat: by “most read” I mean pageviews, as measured by WordPress. I have no way of knowing if you read the whole article or got bored by the third sentence. Also bear in mind that articles posted earlier in 2016 have had more time to rack up views than ones published later in the year, although the most-read articles tend to have the most pageviews shortly after publication.)

http://ic.c4assets.com/brands/stage-school/80469738-41ed-4c07-916e-8498bdf9ba23.jpg?interpolation=progressive-bicubic&output-format=jpeg&output-quality=90%7B&resize%7DMost read new comment piece: I write on a variety of issues, some contentious, some mainstream, but I’ve never been able to predict what gets the most attention. 2015’s most read comment piece about Richard Herring got the top spot after a retweet from the man itself. However, this time round the most read article was almost entirely found by Google searches: Why E4’s Stage School is all your fault, where I suggested that the blame for such an appalling depiction of actors must be shared by the people, actors and otherwise, who’ve watched programmes with Made in Chelsea before. Seems there’s a lot of interest from the arts world in this abomination. Only thing I don’t know is where this article was read by people who agree with me or people who think Stage School is the best piece of telly ever. No death threats received yet, but digging my bunker just in case. Continue reading

The chrisontheatre review of 2015

So with the excitement of the 2015 awards out of the way, there’s just time to look back at the most viewed pages on this blog. Usual technical caveat apply here: I am counting pageviews as determined by WordPress. The geeks amongst you will know that there is no 100% reliable way of distinguishing the real pageviews from the bots and spammers. But when comparing different pages of the same blog using the same tools it’s reasonably reliable.

Also be aware that articles published earlier in the year are at a slightly unfair advantage here as they have longer to build up stats that later articles (some articles build an audience over months or even years). I’ve also omitted the live coverage of the Edinburgh and Brighton fringes as that would have had lots of people returning to the page as and when it was updated.

Anyway, enough technical waffling, let’s skip a razzmatazz intro and get to the details, shall we? Continue reading

What I’ve learned from three years of theatre blogging

Bloody hell. Three years since I did my very first blog post. Back then, I started it off on a whim, got a trickle of pageviews, and that was about it. Now I get a lot more visitors, I am known to other reviewers, some of my reviews do the rounds, I can get press tickets to reviews and – for some reason – an old review I wrote of Absurd Person Singular seem to have become a port of call for gazillions of GCSE English students as a set text. Over time, the scope of this blog has also changed. Originally, it was only going to be reviews, but over time this is expanded to include recommendations, tips (for both punters and performers) and comment articles, all of which have ranged from next to no attention to raising a lot of eyebrows.

Anyway, to mark three years, I’ve update my About Me section with two new pages: What Chrisontheatre is, and What Chrisontheatre is not. They’re quite detailed, but it covers a lot of things I learnt about theatre blogging, and what expectations there are (and which expectations I will and won’t live up to.) But to cover the important points there, plus a few other observations I’ve made since I began:

1: Don’t expect to get it right the first time

You might think that if all you’re doing is writing reviews, you can’t go wrong, can you? After all, an opinion is an opinion? How can you get opinions wrong? However, reality isn’t so simple. You’ve got to be readable to a wider audience, not just yourself. You’ve got to keep their attention. You need to be disciplined enough to avoid waffling over minor points. You need to learn to be concise. These are things should expect to learn as you go along. When I read some of my early reviews today, I wince when I see how much waffling and digression there is. But that’s okay, because that hopefully means I’ve learned and improved. You should expect the same experience.

2: Building a blog audience takes a long time

I’ll be upfront. For the first year or so, my pageviews were so embarrassingly low I wondered why I was bothering. Unless you are lucky enough to already have a big following of social media, you can expect the same start. (Some blogging sites will appear to show a lot of hits from a word go, but the bad news is they are almost certainly not people reading your posts. Most “hits” are automated downloads from bots for search engines. Sorry.) There are ways that you can get more attention and build up a following, but there’s really just two things you need. Time. And patience. And you need a lot of both. So if you’re not prepared for the long haul, you might want to question whether it’s worth starting in the first place. But the good news is that my pageviews now are least five times as much as they were in my first year. Speaking of pageviews … Continue reading