Unfortunately, not all PR folks and organizations are quite as professional and enlightened in dealing with bloggers and others who write primarily for web publications. I learned yesterday that the publicists for a number of Bay Area theater companies managed to shoot themselves in the foot rather nicely this week. They sent email around to various critics - I do not know how many - telling them that to obtain comp tickets in the future, the critics would have to provide web analytics demonstrating their readership.
Among the critics who received this missive was Janos Gereben, former arts editor of the Oakland Post (for two decades), former music editor of the Mercury News, the Seattle Times, and regular contributor to numerous local publications for many years now, including the SF Examiner and SF Classical Voice.
Of all people to make threats to....it's obvious that the organizations represented by the email hadn't stopped to consider a few points.
- WTF, you're asking Janos to provide web stats? You don't know and trust his work after 40 years on the local scene?
- Believe it or not, not everyone published on the web has access to blogstats. If you have your own blog, yes, you have access, depending on the platform and depending on whether you have enabled an analytics program on your blog. However, if you think that I can get the analytics for SFCV or my own reviews on SFCV, please enjoy watching me fall on the floor laughing.
- All publicity is not actually good publicity, and I'm happy to provide a little bad publicity for the publicists whose names appeared on the email: Charles Zukow and Kevin Kopjak, Terence Keane, Erin Garcia, \ Marilyn Langbehn, Sasha Hnatkovich, Erica Lewis-Finein, Carla Befera, on behalf of various theatrical organizations, all of whose names the readers of this blog would undoubtedly know.
- Not all of your shows are sellouts. You can, in fact, afford to give away tickets to 10 or 20 reviewers. Theatrical runs are not one-shot or, usually, even eight-shot gigs. If you don't want to put everybody on opening night, spread 'em out over the first two or three shows.
- You'd rather lose reviews than give tickets to the wrong people. BZZZZT. That is shooting yourself in the foot.
Here's the most galling paragraph from the email that was sent around:
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.
Translation: we are making this demand en masse, but really, this email is meaningless, because each individual organization will be making its own decisions. Honestly, guys: don't you read the people you emailed this to? Don't you know their work and whether they're good reviewers? That might actually be more important than raw statistics.
Overall, you'll get more bad than good out of this, including a refusal from Janos - and possibly others - to cover the organizations as long as these demands are maintained.
In closing, if anyone's curious about my blogstats, you should know that they're pretty wimpy compared to, say, La Cieca's up-to-18,000 per day page views. Interpreting analytics reports is always tricky, so I'll just leave it at this: I have about 2200 unique visitors per month and something between 5500 and 7000 page views per month.