It’s an exciting time. My team and I are brimming with ideas about the future of the Whatsonstage.com community. The challenge is how to realise some of our ambitions – with an already over-stretched core of just five full-time staff and limited financial resources.
We have always known how passionate, knowledgeable and highly engaged our audience is. And having met so many of you personally through our Whatsonstage.com Outings and Awards events, we also know what a successful and professionally diverse lot you are as well. So I had the idea that some of you may be able to – and want to – help with our expansion. Which has the added benefit of keeping it all “in the family” as it were.
We’re often approached by people who want to write or intern for us, particularly on the editorial side, which is great – but that’s not what we’re looking for on this occasion. What we need now are people with the skills to help us build a better platform, technologically and commercially, for the future of our business. Read on for more specifics on our biggest and most imminent challenges.
New CMS: We have an incredibly dense, content-rich, database-driven website that has evolved around a bespoke content management system (CMS) developed in php and MySql. It has served us well, but it can’t adapt as quickly as we need it to to the rapidly changing social media sphere. We plan to move the entire website to WordPress, an open-source platform, that will allow visitors to get more out of the experience and share our content and their views much more readily.
Going mobile: As with the rest of the web, a fast-increasing proportion of our visitors are accessing Whatsonstage.com via a smartphone or other mobile device. We plan to create a mobile version of the site, allowing users to quickly and easily read news, reviews and gossip, book tickets and chat on the Discussion Forum while on the move. And then move on to other fun theatre-related apps.
Do you have the technical expertise to work with our in-house developer to help us achieve either of these goals faster? Alternatively, are you a whizz with web and graphic design, search engine optimisation or other Internet-savvy skills you think we might benefit from? Email us with details of your experience – including any programming languages and software packages you’ve mastered – and thoughts on how you might be able to contribute.
Corporate sponsorship: Now in their 11th year, the Whatsonstage.com Awards are, as you know, the only major UK theatre awards decided exclusively by the public, with 45,000 voters annually. We have traditionally raised sponsorship in-house, primarily from incredibly supportive companies working within the theatre sector. But as the awards have grown and grown in popularity and influence, we now need to take them to the next level with the help of larger corporate sponsors as well as a potential broadcast deal. We’re already working with a TV production company on the latter, and they are in discussion with two broadcasters.
Do you have the contacts and influence to help us raise circa £100,000 in corporate sponsorship? Alternatively, are there other ways you can help us expand the reach of the Whatsonstage.com Awards, by helping to set up an online video streaming deal, marketing initiatives or media partnerships?
STRONGER, BROADER LINKS
Whatsonstage.com is ranked as number 1 in the UK by Alexa and number 3 by Hitwise amongst all performing arts websites. That’s pretty good going for a niche interest website, but we know there are lots of other great performing arts websites out there. We plan to relaunch our links directory soon. If you’d like to be included – free of charge – in this, and are interested in hearing some of the other ideas we have for working together, shout now!
Do you run a theatre blog, venue or company website that should be included in our new links directory? Email us details about you and your website.
Our Whatsonstage.com Theatre Club offers great benefits at tremendous value, not least a joining gift ticket to a West End show, a subscription to our bimonthly print magazine and advance booking on our hugely popular Whatsonstage.com Outings with all their exclusive extras.
Do you work for a large company that may be interested in offering our Club benefits to employees or a brand that would like to align itself with theatre via our membership and events? Or perhaps you work for a media company with affiliate marketing opportunities?
We are also always looking for new ways to grow the mailing lists for our weekly email newsletter and daily theatre ticket offers, expand our social media reach and generally spread the Whatsonstage.com gospel and our love of all things theatrical.
Do you have any other ideas about how you may be able to get involved in any of these areas – or indeed other areas we haven’t even thought of yet?
Given our limited resources, if you have major price-tag proposals, I wouldn’t advise spending too much time on them. That said, we don’t want to take advantage and we can – and will – reward success, particularly with the likes of sponsorship introductions and membership initiatives. What we’re most interested in is “win-win-win”s – in other words, collaborations that benefit you, Whatsonstage.com and, most of all, the rest of our visitors.
On top of all that, amongst the immediate non-financial benefits we can offer those who get involved are: tea at the Palace (theatre, not Buckingham), theatre tickets, complementary Club membership (for life!), an invitation to our 15th birthday celebrations, and unlimited bucket loads of passion and enthusiasm.
Click on any of the relevant linked paragraphs above to send in your credentials or feel free to email me directly at [email protected].