A new year at WhatsOnStage
Managing editor Alex Wood contemplates what the next 12 months have in store at WOS
2022 was a biggie at WhatsOnStage – with the highest site traffic in our history at the publication in a non-lockdown year (beaten only by 2020, which was a bit of an exception for obvious reasons).
We saw record votes for the WOSAwards, grew a major TikTok base (with over 1 million likes in four months), doubled the number of users tuning in for our new daily newsletter and continued to build on the stellar work of all who came before. It's reassuring coming out of the lockdown years knowing that there is a theatregoing public that is ready and willing to attend and engage with productions, or take a chance on new and vibrant voices in the arts community.
But I'm conscious we're doing this against an ever truncating world for arts journalism. The slowly diminishing coverage from both national and local publications means that the sources that remain will invariably have more eyeballs drawn to them.
Theatre journalism is inevitably niche – a review of a TV show going out across the nation is more likely to get the clicks than a review of a play with an eight-week run in a 100-person venue. In a world dictated by numbers, budgets and data, the salami-slicing of budgets for reviews and features amongst the wider press has been sad to see.
As all publications must do therefore, we have to continue adapting. Our landscape is facing turbulence in the face of unpredictable algorithms, eccentric owners of social media platforms and a multi-faceted audience that gets its information from increasingly diversifying locations. Some of our readers will find us through email, others will watch our reels on Instagram. We have to make sure we're catering to all.
I am determined that WOS will remain a paywall-free means of news provision and event discovery – providing audiences across the UK with the means of finding a new favourite show or stage star – be it their first or their thousandth. It's exciting to think that every day we're already facilitating thousands of theatre trips up and down the country – and that's something that will continue going forwards.
At the same time, not all audience members are back yet – and that's very much understandable. We're plunging into a cost-of-living crisis that has sapped many of their disposable income. International tourism levels aren't yet matching 2019. Theatregoing is a habit that has been knocked out of sorts by successive lockdowns, transport disruption and more. That only makes our objectives here at WOS all the more important.
After many months of extensive and exciting discussion, planning and strategising, there will be some changes and transformations across the site this year. We are going to augment and fine-tune our listings and editorial offering, providing novel, original and fun features. Please bear with us if the process involves a few speed bumps, but we're going to make sure that the WOS you're reading in January 2024 is easier to navigate, more comprehensive and more interactive.
Here's to an exciting 2023 – kicking off with some very glamorous WhatsOnStage Awards coming next month!