5 Tips to Starting a Theater Blog (or any blog for that matter).
So you wanna start a theater blog, huh?
Gosh, I hope the answer to that is yes.
See, my mission statement, on and off my blog, is simple. I want to amplify the conversation about theater. If more people are talking about theater, whether that’s because of my blog or because they are playing my board game, then maybe more people will want to go see the theater, or get involved in the theater. And that floats all our boats, and more importantly enriches people’s lives (cuz I think that’s what the theater does).
If there are more theater blogs out there, then there’s more of a chance of the conversation about the theater getting louder, right?
So gosh, I hope you are thinking about blogging.
And if you’re the head of an institution . . . a non-profit regional theater, or an off-off Broadway company with a unique voice, blogging is a must. It’s one of the best ways you can get across what makes your theater different from all others and keep your audience engaged . . . and loyal.
So you’re in? Good.
As someone who has been blogging about Broadway and beyond for six years now, let me tell you the easy part is deciding to do it. The hard part is getting it done. And the even harder part is continuing to do it. The blogosphere is littered with blogs that have died after a few weeks or months.
I don’t want that to happen to you, so here are my five tips on how to start and write a theater blog.
1. WHY ARE YOU BLOGGING?
Make sure you come up with your own mission statement. How is your blog and your voice going to be different from the other voices on the web? (There are other theater blogs out there, you know. Check out the ITBA (which I helped organize) for some samples and some inspiration.) People read blogs not only because they are different . . . but also because they can’t find that voice or that information anywhere else. That’s why people read me. Why sure, I think I put out some good stuff every once in awhile, but I’m also one of the few, if not only, producers blogging. So if people want that perspective, then I’m the option. Period. So if you’re starting a blog with just general reviews about Broadway shows, you’re in for a long struggle to get traffic. You can do it, but it’s not going to be as easy as if you were writing about something more specific, and were one of the few people doing it. As Seth Godin would say, be purple.
2. SET YOUR SCHEDULE
Your blog is like a periodical. It’s your job to decide whether it comes out like a daily newspaper or a weekly magazine, or even monthly. But you must decide the frequency before you start. And don’t pressure yourself into something you don’t think you can handle. Consistency is more important than frequency. If you only think you can post once a week, then great . . . don’t say, “I’m so going to try to do it every day,” and then fail. Because failing will make you feel bad and you’ll be more likely to give up the whole thing. It doesn’t matter what schedule you decide, as long as you decide one and pick it. And be specific. My blog goes online at 11 AM every morning and gets emailed out at 8 PM (Curtain time!). Readers will come to expect your blog, like the nightly news. Don’t give them a moving target.
3. GOT IDEAS?
I find the hardest thing about writing my theater blog is not the actual writing of the blog, it’s coming up with the ideas. That’s why I go through life with my eyes wide open, always looking for ideas (I also read other blogs, newspapers, etc. voraciously). And when I find an idea, it goes on a list that I keep close to my side so that when I sit down to blog every day (and I try to do it first thing in the AM for publication the next day), I can pick one of the ideas that I’ve already come up with and just go. You desperately want to avoid staring at your computer at 3 AM knowing that your blog posts in a few hours and you still don’t have any idea on what to write about (believe me, I’ve been there, and it’s painful). It’s those moments that you’re most susceptible to just not posting one day. And once you break your set schedule, you’re that much closer to giving up. Have ideas ready to go. Ask your friends for ideas. Ask your readers for ideas. HINT: If three people ask you to write about something, there’s a much bigger audience waiting to hear about it.
4. GET TRAFFIC
The traffic to your blog is going to be small at first. It’s going to be your friends, your family, etc. It’s just like if you were starting out as a stand-up comic (another vocation that needs a unique voice). Who would be at those first few shows? Frankly, it’s just like if you were starting out as anything! But hopefully, those friends and family will tell more friends and more friends and more friends. Other ways to help boost your traffic is to make friends with other theater bloggers. Link to each other. Write guest blogs for each other. But nothing builds traffic like great content. So just keep your head down and write good stuff. If you write it, they will come.
5. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT MONEY.
I have this theory. If someone does something . . . anything . . . just for money, one of two things are going to happen. Either that something is going to fail, because it was started for the wrong reasons. Or if it doesn’t fail, that person is going to be unhappy, because they did it for the wrong reasons.
Blogging is not about making money. Period. Forget it. No way no how. So don’t even think that it’s going to happen. And if along the way, you discover some ways to monetize what you are doing, that’s a supreme bonus. But if you want to blog because you think you can earn an extra buck, just give up now, because you will give up later. Twitter was very famously started with no concept of how they were going to make money. Their CEO said they weren’t even thinking about it during their first few years. You shouldn’t either. But if you produce good enough content and offer good enough value, you may find that people come to you with an offer of their own.
It’s easy to start a blog today. Just go to WordPress and get one going. Wordpress will tell you that it’s “free.” And yeah, you can use the software for free. But it will take a lot of your time, which is definitely not free.
That said, blogging is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, and my career, and I encourage you all to take a swipe at it yourself. Because the more of us doing it, the better theater will be.
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On my morning commute, I scoot past a giant hole…
Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.