Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Annual Report of AustinLiveTheatre Sites, 2012-2013

Austin Live Theatre Profile Annual Report 2012-2013

Annual Report, 2012 - 2013

by Michael Meigs

ref: 2012 Annual Report

Austin Live Theatre (ALT), a sponsored project of the Austin Creative Alliance, is a non-commercial Internet publication crafted as a gift to the theatre artists, companies and the theatre-going public of Central Texas. It originated in mid-2008 as a blog when I realized that Austin media were not adequately covering the rich world of live narrative theatre in and around Austin. Since 2009 I have published both the blog (www.austinlivetheatre.blogspot.com) and a more extensive .com site (www.austinlivetheatre.com).

In 2012 I expanded the site's coverage area to include not only theatre in Austin and outlying communities but much of San Antonio theatre as well. Site usage remains stable at approximately 15,000 hits per month, approximately 75% of them at the .com and the rest at the blog.

Experience suggested that the core clientele of the sites consisted of members of the artistic communities. I chose to focus the content more closely on their interests and needs.

  • AustinLiveTheatre picked up from the now inactive www.austinactors.net the initiative of announcing auditions for live stage productions; in the reporting period ALT collected and published 303 auditions/opportunities and announced them via Twitter (@ALT_auditions) and via the Austin Live Theatre Facebook page. There is no charge to individuals or to non-profit/non-commercial organizations.

  • The technological advantages of the Internet platform became more manifest this past year as more companies produced and circulated videos on YouTube, Vimeo and elsewhere. I picked these up and embedded them on both ALT sites. I also produced several videos in cooperation with Austin theatre companies. ALT posted 27 videos in 2011 and 50 videos in the first seven months of 2012; during the reporting period ALT posted 139 videos.
  • The website aggregates relevant arts reporting and news from other sources. One recent example is the publication of the full listing of cultural arts awards made by the City of Austin for the upcoming biennium.
Reviewing non-commercial Central Texas theatre productions is a key function of the site. ALT has occasionally covered touring productions but almost all of the 65 reviews written between September 2012 and August 2013 were of small non-profit, educational or community theatre events often not covered by local media. ALT reviewed fewer productions in the reporting period because of the demands of administering the websites (as noted, 65 reviews, compared to 113 in 2011, 110 in 2012 and 40 in the first 7 months of 2013). The site is fortunate that four volunteer reviewers have occasionally contributed pieces. (Contributions are invited and may be sent to austinlivetheatre@gmail.com)

The Central Texas Theatre calendar is available by clicking through the front page of AustinLiveTheatre.com. With it ALT seeks to establish as comprehensive as practicable a listing by date of locally produced live theatre in Austin, San Antonio and nearby communities for the upcoming two months. Venues and times are given, and users can click on the venue to be connected to a map of its location. These listings will continue.

Discontinued marketing support. Beginning in 2011 I created a separate announcement page for each theatre event that came to my attention. ALT published these as internal pages at the main site (.com) available to search engines or via front-page links at the site, and placed them immediately on the front page of the blog. Almost a thousand were created in 2011-2012. During the reporting period 570 such pages were created and later shifted to the category Performances Finished and another 58 were extant in the categories Coming Soon (39), Opening This Week (2), Continuing on Stage (11), and Theatre for Youth (6). Although these pages offered an extensive and informative picture of theatre art and regularly attracted Internet 'hits,' they required a great investment of time and effort. Conservatively estimating 15 minutes of research and formatting for each such page, this marketing experiment required at least the equivalent of a full month of work for the reporting period, constituting an unrealistic burden. I have stopped creating these pages. 

Reviews from elsewhere. ALT immediately provides its readers with links to other published reviews by creating links on the internal pages mentioned in the previous paragraph. I expect to continue this service in a slightly different format, probably by creating a front-page box at the .com offering links to others' reviews of productions currently on stage.

Software updating and new site. The principal site operates as www.austinlivetheatre.com and as www.austinlivetheater.com. I have registered two additional domain names: www.centraltexaslivetheatre.com and ctxlt.com. I am planning a redesign of the site and an update of the content management system to reflect its wider scope and to adapt to mobile devices.

Theatre coverage and support from others improved somewhat with the continuation of www.austin.broadwayworld.com, in which reviewer Jeff Davis covers a good spectrum of theatre types and locations and now offers an e-mail announcement posted several times a week advising of reviews and news. Jenni Morin of San Antonio's www.theatre-for-change.com periodically posts thoughtful reviews. Print media coverage in Central Texas remains mostly inadequate, although the 1-3 reviews published weekly in the Austin Chronicle are generally informative and thoughtful.
The Creative Fund, a group of individuals in Austin who subscribe to help subsidize the costs of theatre venues, makes quarterly choices of which projects to support. They have consistently assisted small but highly deserving theatre organizations applauded by this website.

At KOOP-FM Lisa Scheps is the principal host for a Wednesday afternoon program discussing theatre generally and interviewing local artists (also available for download in .mp3 audio format on-line at http://offstageontheair.blogspot.com).

Austinist (www.austinist.com), examiner.com and the Culturemap site (www.austin.culturemap.com) established in 2012 cover theatre only occasionally. The website www.artandculturetx.com, live as of September 2013, has a theatre section (http://artsandculturetx.com/category/theatre/) that has carried three feature articles mentioning Austin theatre, but given its goal of covering the entire state the site is unlikely to engage deeply in Central Texas theatre. 

The website of the Austin Convention and Visitors Center (http://www.austintexas.org/) is essentially non-functional as far as theatre art is concerned, and its relatively glossy presentation focuses especially upon music events (the heading to the events page reads, "Austin, Texas offers a wide range of events, from music concerts, food festivals, and sports competitions to museum displays, exhibits, and family fun. Use our listings of Austin's featured and ongoing events to find the perfect activity for your vacation").

The principal website of the Austin Creative Alliance (www.austincreativealliance.com), formerly the Austin Circle of Theatres, does not feature theatre anywhere on its front page. The website calendar is empty. Austin Shakespeare and the Creative Fund have their own secondary pages, but there is no other listing of theatre organizations. The website presents itself essentially as that of an advocacy organization. The ACA's promotional website www.nowplayingaustin.com and associated weekly e-mail are somewhat better, but they provide an incomplete and somewhat skewed picture of theatre events available in Austin.

The B. Iden Payne Committee, now spun off as a separate sponsored project, continues to operate but with a reduced population of voting members, who pay for the privilege when they purchase advance tickets to the annual promotional event.

Expenses. Austin Live Theatre does not solicit advertising and makes no charge for listings. Reviewers do accept complimentary tickets associated with reviewing opportunities. The approximate costs for the 2012-2013 period were $2000 (web hosting and Internet service $650; equipment purchase, $205; software, $150; transportation, $275; tickets, $600; Austin Creative Alliance fiscal sponsorship, $120). I contributed $1925 directly to various Central Texas theatre organizations during the reporting period. Austin Live Theatre has a PayPal registration for contributions (austinlivetheatre@gmail.com) but as yet has not solicited donations.

Statistical detail:

ALT reviews in 2012-2013
ALT video and photographic postings in 2012-2013

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