Broadway producers reach out to young people with new site

Published 12:22 pm Friday, October 30, 2015

NEW YORK — Broadway producers have created a new website to reach out to a special demographic — one more familiar with twerking than jazz hands.

The Broadway League, the industry’s trade association, on Wednesday unveiled its new, an interactive site designed to attract children ages 8 to 13 that’s packed with video, photos and stories about shows.

“There really is no place online where families and kids can go and really interact with Broadway content that’s really about kids and for kids,” said Jan Friedlander Svendsen, director of marketing and business development.

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“We want to make it cool for kids but also we want parents and also even educators to come and find content there and help promote it to their kids,” she said.

Modeled on Instagram and Tumblr, the mobile friendly site is packed with various posts for theater fans: backstage interviews with actors, photos of cute dogs owned by actors, the rapper Drake who spins a Tony Award in a GIF from his “Hotline Bling” video and a time-lapse video of “Kinky Boots” actor Kyle Taylor Parker getting into his Lola makeup on tour.

It’s part of the league’s overall push to engage families. Other efforts have included Kid’s Night on Broadway, the National High School Musical Theatre Awards and Family First Nights.

Charlotte St. Martin, the league president, said the goal isn’t to sell tickets but to engage fans. “We know that once we get families to theater that we’ve hooked them for life. But it’s getting them there,” she said.

Content for the site comes from four places: league-generated video and photos, submissions from Broadway shows themselves, partners like Playbill or Broadway World and user-generated images and stories. So far, the league is funding the operation at a loss without advertising.

League staff will be curating all BwayZone items, sifting through social media submissions, tweets and content before putting it up. The content will change all day, but it will all be G-rated.

“Everything on the site is moderated. There’s always somebody saying, ‘Yes, I want that on the website’ rather than anything flowing through automatically,” said Neal Freeman, director of digital and technology.

“We’re using content from a lot of places, and we’re happy to feature content that’s in various other publications that’s Broadway related. We want to be a window — a portal — for our users.”

Billed as “Broadway’s Official Family Club,” the league hopes to one day increase BwayZone engagement levels by adding sweepstakes, games and loyalty points that can be cashed in for badges or even tickets to shows.

The hope is to reach a demographic that lists YouTube and Buzzfeed among its top sites.

“It feels very relevant, and it’s going to feel like pop culture,” Svendsen said. “Theater has never been so pop culture in decades so we’re excited.”