The Broadway League Conference Day 1: Gilty as charged.

The Planning Committee of this year’s conference made a fantastic choice of starting off the week with speakers from outside our industry in order to inspire us with cutting-edge-commerce thoughts, that we could then try to find ways to work into what we do (not always easy, but a fun challenge for sure.)

The Morning Keynote Speaker was Susan Lyne, Chairman of Gilt Group, the company behind the online shopping super site, (which happens to feature a Broadway offer or two every so often – if it’s the right one – you’ll see what I mean below).  What’s unique about Susan, and why she makes such an interesting speaker at an entertainment conference is that she was previously the President of Entertainment at ABC and oversaw the development of shows such as Desperate Housewives and Lost (!).

Susan had a bunch of super-succinct nugget-like takeaways in her presentation that I thought could be beneficial to all of you:

  • The rate of change is accelerating.
  • Every industry is being re-imagined.
  • Probably by someone in a garage with a computer.
  • Women drive the internet.  They are not only the big purchasers, but they are the primary users of Facebook, Pinterest and even Zynga Games (!).
  • Consumers don’t just use technology.  They shape it.
  • 90% of the people that work at Gilt could be my children.  Hire people in the digital age to get your company/industry to the digital age.

Pretty good sound bytes, don’t you think?

The above would have made the keynote worth it on its own, but it was the last bit of Susan’s speech that had almost everyone in the room nodding their head in agreement, and scratching out notes on the free promotional notepads in front of us.  And this topic wasn’t anything we didn’t know.  It was just a reminder that we’re not doing enough, and need a kick in the a$$ (dollar signs intended) to get started now.

Susan spoke about mobile.  (Mobile is defined as phone/smartphone/tablet, btw.)

Did you know . . .

  • . . . Mobile internet traffic has grown from 1% of all internet traffic to 13% of all internet traffic . . . in just three years?
  • . . . 24% of all online shopping this holiday season was on mobile?
  • . . . The mobile installed based (number of units) will exceed the PC installed base . . . before the summer of this year?

The mobile generation (and those millennials who are growing up with phones as their third arm) is coming.

And it’s not why you think.  Phones aren’t getting smarter.  Computers are getting smaller.

We’re walking around with something in our pocket which gives us access to everything . . . reviews, offers, the competition, etc.  And that makes tomorrow’s consumer even more powerful than they are today.

Susan left us with this very specific action item that I think is imperative for all of us in the theater industry, and every industry at that.

Reorder your priorities and make mobile first.  The one thing we can absolutely count on is in the eventual ubiquity and use of the mobile device for everything we do.

I know this is probably a little scary to think about.  You’re probably thinking, “I just figured out email marketing, and was sort of getting the hand of social media, and now this?”  You’re not alone.  I think a lot of people at the League conference were thinking the same thing.

The most important thing we can do with a common sense revelation like this is not pull a Homer Simpson and hide under a pile of coats, hoping it will all go away.  Because it won’t.

And with all the other entertainment options out there, from TV to Video Games, available for use on mobile devices, it’s essential that all of us in the theater start figuring out how we not only keep up with mobile technology . . . but we get ahead.


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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.