How funny. I posted this exact same question over a month ago on the forum page, and realised that there are very few people on here who are not working within this industry one way or another.
When I first signed up to this site, I didn't realise I was signing up to a social networking site to be honest.
I have learnt SOOOOOO much being a part of this network which is just great, but would love to get my Mam and Dad on here so that they might feel inspired to go to the theatre rather than hear me rattle on about it all the time.
I know my Mum would feel stupidly left out and overwhelmed by this site which is a little worrying. Isn't it her we should be targeting. Isn't she ACTUALLY NTW's community?
I don't mean this as a criticism, BUT, I have to be honest, this site seems a little self indulgent at times. We are very good at telling each other what we are up too, but STILL, my lovely parents haven't the foggiest what is going on here, and they love the theatre!!!! Aren't we a little buggered without them??
My parents would say of this site "Oh, it's all a little arty farty for me love. There is nothing on there for me!" It still feels that the audiences are on the outskirts somewhat. There has been tremendous hype regarding NTW but as we all know this won't last forever, so am a little confused as to why audiences haven't been reined in to this site whilst the hype is there really?????
Angharad, Thanks for your comment. Can you direct me to where you posted about this before. I've love to read more about your thoughts on it. I think when we talk about 'audiences' as people we target (typical marketing speak) to come to our shows, we aren't considering them as part of our community or the creative process, and this creates a discourse wherein they are distant from us, not part of our shows and our community ... It would be great to see more audience members as part of the NTW community ... but am wondering how we can do this, what place is there for them here and why it hasn't organically occurred already ... :-))
Oooh, this is very interesting stuff. I think the NTW community is designed for anyone with a strong interest in theatre. It is this which makes it stand out from other social networking sites such as Facebook etc, in that 90% of what is posted actually appeals to me. Self indulgent as it may seem, a specialist network keeps those who want to be in the know in the know.
This then begs the question of what is the point of audience members signing in. The comments and discussions can be read anyway, and there's plenty of videos and photos to keep the casual visitor to the site amused without having to give out their date of birth, home town and eye colour. A specific incentive for audience participation could change the tone of the community altogether. But, saying that, a 'community' is not a community unless it is inclusive and it would be really good to hear what audience members think of specific shows. After all, audience opinions are the ones that matter most!
Moving on, I think your question relies on a strict line between audience and creatives, which I personally don't think exists. Theatre is increasingly participatory, and the extent to which an audience member gets involved is up to the individual to determine. Therefore, there should be no discussion of should or shouldn't. I think it is far more fluid than that.
Right, I'm getting rambly so I'll stop now. As you can probably guess, I'm really interested in what you have to say as we all test this innovative system. Please let me know what you find!
But how do we know if the 'audience' are in fact dipping in and out of this site?
My self indulgent remark was merely a reference to the same old question of are we still preaching to the converted again? This site still seems a little scary for those people who haven't a strong interest in Theatre. I directed my other half here not so long ago. He only frequents the Theatre when I take him. His comment- 'I feel swamped by the site'. That to me is not a good sign!
And you have hit the nail on the head that there is no line betwen audience and creatives. This is where this site could have a huge influence.
To me there is a third group of people who attend the theatre: the tag-alongs. These are the friends, associates and significant others who attend the theatre at the request of another. While they do not go out of the way to watch a piece of theatre, they do rather enjoy it when taken. NTW Community will not appeal as they have no need to look for theatre themselves. The people who could be targetted are the take-alongs - sort of buy one get one free theatre goers - who, in my experience, are more than likely to pass on a sort of Commmunity Digest once in a while.
There is a lot of information on the Community but I personnally have never found it too offputting, though perhaps a deep intake of breath was required before I entered. That's the beauty of the internet though, that every enthusiast can have their obsession quenched without the need to appeal to the middle ground. This is a niche community and that probably shouldn't be forgotten. For the casual theatre goer, mainstream social networks and search engines probably provide enough inspiration. I, for one, would rather not have a seperate community for every casual interest I have and instead prefer (as much as I hate Facebook) to have a single network for most of my life, but allow my most passionate hobbies to have a specialist outlet.
Just out of interest, what views did the researchers hold when they began?
Folks, love the comments ... really interesting thoughts, I could talk about this all day ...
I was thinking last night after reading your comments when I went to bed, maybe we need to think about this a different way ... maybe tag-alongs and audiences are part of the online community, or watching and listening as you say Amelia, without being official members ... so maybe not commenting or blogging that much or at all? But finding out about events and things going on ... maybe the bigger questions is who do we want to participate and attend our shows, and is the network of value to them ...
Angharad, you've raised an interesting thought for me ... what/who does the NTW community want the community to be for?
I'm off to Prestatyn today to participate in The Beach with TJ and Charlie ... :-)) ... hope it doesn't rain :-))
Thanks all for the comments. It’s been really useful and interesting for me to hear people’s thoughts on this. Perhaps it would be helpful for me to outline a bit of history, and some of the thinking behind our online presence. The NTW online community has been created for anyone with an interest in NTW to get involved, learn more, and share information. We haven’t set it up for anyone with a particular professional relationship to theatre, though the fact that it’s been embraced as much as it has by theatre-makers is overall a very positive and exciting thing. The community site grew out of NTW’s core principles, and out of a particular historical opportunity.
Until very recently most websites for theatres and arts organsitions were essentially brochures online – performing the important but limited function of letting people know what events were happening when. Companies with the imagination and resources to do so would enrich this content with a range of deeper information – the Tate Gallery being a strong example of a very rich site.
Setting up NTW in early 2009, however, just as web 2.0 had really established itself, with the shared creation of content, and the interactivity of social network taking over from the ‘information publishing’ as the central activity of the web, we felt there was a real opportunity to do something different.
We decided that the very first thing that NTW would do would be to develop an online community. This would tie in well with our goal to be a non-building based, decentralised organization and allow people who were interested in what NTW could become an open forum from the start. To this day, all staff at NTW regularly engage in a very wide conversation online about the possibilities for the future of the company.
Launching the community in May 2010, we were aware that our first goal should be to engage with everyone who felt they had stakes in what NTW could be. Some of you will remember early forums like ‘What Shows and Where?’ and a wonderful online discussion about what our new writing policy should look like.
In the coming months we added a number of layers to our online presence. We wrapped a website around the community site – a place where anyone who needed information about the shows that we were planning could find it. The website quickly leads people to the social network if they would like to get more involved.
We also developed a presence on the ‘day-to-day’ platforms of web 2.0 – facebook, twitter, etc. Many people now get their info about NTW through our facebook page and other feeds.
In the meantime on the NTW community site, we responded to the enthusiastic involvement of theatre makers by opening up our events listings so that anyone could post info about their shows – not just NTW – making the site a richer resource for Welsh theatre makers – and also making it a place that their potential audiences might find out about their work.
Ten months later (and just five months ago!) we produced our first show. At this point a lot of audiences started using the site to get info about productions – from simple stuff like start times and ticket booking, to deeper things like engaging with online creative material (everything from rehearsal blogs to online dramas such as the recent ‘Adventures of Charley and TJ’)
In short, there are now a whole lot of different online places that people can and do get involved in NTW. Even within the ‘NTW community site’ there are lots of different pockets and focuses of activity. One thing we are very committed to at NTW is grassroots outreach. We develop an NTW TEAM in each place where we produce a show, and these TEAMS – many of whom are not theatre makers or even traditional theatre goers – often use the site to keep in touch. Have a look at some of the info posted by the Swansea TEAM for example if you are interested.
Underlying all of this is a fundamental principle of community. Our goal at NTW is that, while everyone will have a differing level of engagement, everyone who gets involved in NTW, whether that’s by buying a ticket, reading about us online, working with us creatively, or simply being interested in theatre in Wales, should have a range of differing ways to deepen their involvement should they want to, and should have ways to contribute actively to the development of the company. The NTW online community is a part of this bigger picture.
Kelly talks about the traditional marketing approach of audiences as ‘people we target to come to our shows’ but I have to say that as a theatre director this is not how I think about audiences. For me audiences are always in some ways the co-creators of the work. Every show is different because of the way that the audience responds. And every audience develops a unique character as a group having a shared experience, similar to that of the previous night’s audience maybe, but never the same. I think it’s time to throw marketing speak about audiences out of the window. The question for me isn’t whether audiences have a role in the online NTW community. There would be no NTW community without audiences. The question is rather, what are the most productive ways in which many differing people’s experiences of theatre can be shared online. The NTW online community is a living experiment in answering this question. Like any experiment it will have moments of failure as well as success, but it’s something that we are inventing together – and we can all have a role in welcoming the widest possible variety of people to join us.
John, this site is just terrific. Truly. And as a director/actress who is now also a mother, this site offers me such an insight into all those shows and work I am unable to attend due to that responsibility.
There is no right and wrong when it comes to this site. It has evolved and has become a wealth of fabulous information and more than this, inspiration.
But it has primarily become some sort of networking site (for the moment) and as the company evolves and it's audience grows then without a doubt it will evolve again.
I am intrigued to learn though how and if you have gone about trying to coax those 'audience' members - the sold out crowds you had for A Good Night Out in the Valleys for example - to be a part of this site? Those people who probably only went because it was about their Valley, and if targeted properly will come back again. When a person books a ticket then you gather their information somehow, mobile numbers, e mails etc...is there some sort of e mail bulletin going to be set up?
MOST people have a mobile phone with bluetooth, so why not send information about the site just before a show starts or info on the next shows, directing to the site etc etc via this technology.
As I said on my previous post the hype won't last forever.
I will go looking for theatre productions. Other people need to be reminded.
A close friend of mine just said (and this is not me speaking coz I am one of those people he is talking about) - "this site is being run by theatre people for theatre people". LOL.....work that one out!
Have you thought about usability of the community network? It requires some knowledge of other social networking sites to feel confident in navigating and contributing, which for the average user can be overwhelming.
Maybe the community network isn’t the best way to initially engage with the average audience member; utilising platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may be better or sufficient.