Bringing Online Audiences Into The Room Where It Happens

With all the snow blanketing New York last weekend, you would have been forgiven for thinking that Elsa was in town. Unfortunately, Idina Menzel was elsewhere touring her show If/Then throughout the US but many of the other brightest names from the theatre industry were lighting up the town at BroadwayCon – A convention for theatre fans. But how did they engage theatre fans outside New York?


When it comes to creating brand ambassadors and lasting relationships, nothing is more important in the sci-fi, comic book and movie industry than Comic-Con. It provides memorable experiences for fans, up-close encounters with celebrities, encourages the formation of communities and sends social media (and the rest of the city) abuzz with costumed enthusiasts. Over the years, Comic Con has grown into a huge monolith of entertainment which tours around the world with each city adopting their own version of the convention engaging fans around the globe.

BroadwayCon is in a different boat. Still in its infancy, it doesn’t have the reach to inspire other cities to pull off the same endeavour. Yet this weekend packed with theatrical celebrity appearances, panels and signings didn’t forget about engaging audiences outside New York. And it can’t afford to because the large majority of their ticket sales come from outside the town.

So how has this big convention engaged with this outside audiences? Not surprisingly, most of this communication has come from theatre giant, Playbill, which has recently undertaken a concerted digital push with their new app.

It would be easy to go into this circumstance with the aim to bring outside audiences into the room where it happens by live streaming each event. But is that the best digital audience experience that can be provided? Not really. It would certainly make audiences hunger to get there next year, but it probably wouldn’t leave them with the best experience. To really engage digital audiences, you need to provide them with something created and curated just for them.

PlaybillDrawing on Facebook’s latest live streaming addition, Facebook Live, Playbill created digital content directly for digital audiences with shows hosted by Matthew Rodin and Tyler Mount. These shows took the form of discussions and interviews with some of the famous theatrical celebrities who attended the convention – but not the interviews that had happened on stage – interviews engaging online audiences who were writing in questions and could actually influence the course of the conversation. Essentially creating a digital version of the same experience physical attendees were having in New York.

And they certainly reaped the benefits of this curated digital media engaging with thousands and thousands of viewers in each live stream interview! (Check them out on the Playbill Facebook page).

Sometimes it takes more than just bringing digital audiences into the action because, remember, the digital customer experience is incredibly different to the physical one. Online resonance requires different formats, digital audiences don’t get the engulfing element through a computer screen and they interact with other people having simultaneous experiences differently. And Playbill (and Matthew Rodin & Tyler Mount) certainly understood and took advantage of this digital experience extremely well!