After a year of having a swanky web address and shiny site, I look at the challenges Grumpy Gay Critic has faced and how they’ll be tackled next year.
Hello (not you, Adele)!
2015’s been a whirlwind year. At the beginning of it I decided to fork out for an actual URL/web address so that Grumpy Gay Critic could become a real website and look a little bit better than the free WordPress blog it used to be. There was also going to be potential to host adverts and therefore the possibility of creating some revenue and other exciting things I had planned for Grumpy Gay Critic too. So, how well has Grumpy Gay Critic done in 2015?
The Year So Far
Readership and Growth
Grumpy Gay Critic has certainly grown, from a humble 1,500 unique visitors per month (UVM) in January (cumulative of unique visitors per day, according to my statistics add-on) to an average of 3,500-4,000 UVM. In September, UVM peaked to nearly 5,000. It emboldens me to know that the website has a growing viewership outside of the comments I receive directly from creative professionals who I’ve engaged with. Therefore, there is a case for me to continue with Grumpy Gay Critic.
Well, this hasn’t happened at all. Although it’s still something I want to look at in the coming year, and given some of the changes outlined below, Grumpy Gay Critic might actually start generating some revenue. Just trying to get Grumpy Gay Critic to where is now has been a lot of effort with everything else, so whilst I’ve not started to make any money as of yet, I’m very proud of what Grump Gay Critic has achieved regardless.
This year has been yet another year of great personal challenges for me. I’ve gone from being in a job which I hated (and which hated me in return) which very badly affected my longstanding mental health issues due to workplace bullying and gross mismanagement, making it very difficult to keep on top of things. Then I went into unemployment (again) for three months, into an interim job in recruitment, and have now settled back in higher education in a job that is busy and hectic, but I’m thoroughly enjoying. I have also just finished moving flat which has taken up a lot of my time.
These challenging episodes have adversely affected my ability to get reviews and articles out in good time on Grumpy Gay Critic, and in some cases have caused me to cancel going to shows at short notice: two things which I’m not at all happy that I’ve done.
Facing Up To The Challenges
Over the past month, I’ve had to really face up to exactly what I’m actually capable of doing with Grumpy Gay Critic. I am the only writer on the website and I also work a full-time min. 37.5 hour job on top of gallivanting around London’s theatre scene. Over the past four weeks, my reviews have been consistently late, with reviews falling outside the expected 48 hour turn around, with some like La Soiree ending up being published a full week after seeing the show, and the marvelous Rotterdam going out six days after press night.
The problem is that, seeing and reviewing three shows a week is my absolute capacity. This means that when there are personal hiccups in my life, there isn’t any wiggle room to accommodate them. The result is that when something does come up, I’m then playing a constant game of catch-up to get one late review out so I can get another late review out in time I already don’t have.
I owe it to the PRs and creatives to put things out in a reasonable time-frame as they have invited me to reviews shows for Grumpy Gay Critic because they have faith in and respect for my writing, regardless of what drama is going on personally. Therefore, for the rest of November (with the exception of plays I’ve already agreed to see) I will be taking a break from reviewing to simply settle down and reset myself. From December, I will only be able to review a maximum of two plays a week (although, with it being Christmas show season, I’m already looking at covering three shows some weeks). I will continue to be upfront about what the expected publishing dates for a review when I accept an invite for the sake of greater transparency and accountability.
This means I’m going to turn a lot more things down, which really upsets me as I genuinely want to see all that I get offered to go to. But I have to be realistic about the amount of reviews I’m able to publish in timely a manner.
Writing between 800-1,000 words does me few favours in trying to be punctual with reviews. I have considered reducing the length of reviews on Grumpy Gay Critic, but the feedback I get from people, especially from theatre creatives, is that what I produce is comprehensive and helpful compared to shorter reviews. As it stands, I believe these long-form reviews forms a unique selling point compared my peers/”competitors” and therefore I’m currently resolved to continue to dedicate myself to 800-1,000 words reviews.
Publishing regularly has always been one of the ways Grumpy Gay Critic has been able to grow. By limiting myself to only two reviews per week is by no means going to limit the frequency of published content on the website. With freer weeks I will be able to get out some news articles in addition to the two reviews. Furthermore, this will give me time to also work on features and interviews (two of which I’ve started but not been able to complete as of yet).
One of things that has upset me most is my complete lack of ability to reply to the emails that come through to me in good time, or even at all! I’m sincerely hoping that limiting myself to two shows a week will enable to reply to people.
Furthermore, social media campaigns have certainly helped Grumpy Gay Critic’s growth, and I’ve only been able to sporadically initiate these over short periods of time. Again, with more time, I should be able to undertake these.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Around 40% of traffic for Grumpy Gay Critic is from search engines. However, there are still some issues with SEO that I need address, such as crawl errors. Hopefully, this will enable more search engine traffic to my site as well as help improve my Google ranking.
I will continue to do these for shows where I can. They do require a little extra time on top of the full review as, in order to have good SEO, I need to write an article of a minimum 300 words to accompany it. I have admittedly been on the verge of pulling my video reviews, but have been swayed from doing so by some lovely positive comments, even if it is how my videos seem to be best when I’m absolutely plastered and within easy reach of a puppet.
Hopefully, as my mental health improves with job satisfaction and stability, I’ll be able to do more of these, as with my condition it makes it very difficult to speak on camera if my health is in a bad state, no matter how drunk I get, which is why I’ve not been doing many videos of late.
I haven’t had the time to approach places regarding advertising on Grumpy Gay Critic. DeWynters have forwarded me on an animated advert for Guys and Dolls which has been playing to test the capability. In 2016, with more potential growth behind Grumpy Gay Critic, I should be able to start to put more adverts on my site. Furthermore, I will be looking to build up affiliate links and hopefully some booking deals.
An idea I never got around to was to publish a quarterly report on viewing stats, as I feel this will help build a case for potential advertisement hosting, but also would be a way to transparently track Grumpy Gay Critic’s growth. With more time available, I should be able to produce these.
Grumpy Gay Critic was born from an idea to supplement reviews that I was then writing on So So Gay, as there was a word limit to what I could write. Then, as I expanded what I was doing on my blog, the idea was to focus mainly on LGBT arts. As Grumpy Gay Critic has grown, I’ve tended to cover anything and everything, but always prioritising LGBT arts.
The problem with being called Grumpy Gay Critic is that “gay” is still a bit of a taboo. I have noticed that in some cases that on promotional material put out by a show I’m sometimes absent compared to my peers. I have broached the subject with several PRs, and they have been frank in that the fact that the word “gay” is in my publication name sometimes makes it difficult get put on a poster, and Grumpy Gay Critic suffers from a lack of promotional visibility compared to neutrally named publications.
This does bother me, but I have to face the reality of that’s just how theatre does it’s business. I understand that sometimes it’s a hard enough sell to get people to the theatre, particularly fringe, without people thinking the show is of an LGBT nature via a vicarious association. In saying that, it by no means has made Grumpy Gay Critic invisible, with many shows attributing ratings and quotes regardless of whether the show’s content is LGBT or not, for which I’m very grateful for, most spectacularly with a pull-quote on the marquee for Romeo & Juliet.
I am still considering changing the publication’s name come January 2016. I am as of yet undecided, so any feedback will be greatly appreciated.
So, I’m happy to say that Grumpy Gay Critic will still be a thing in 2016 (even if it is under a new name), and I look forward to adapting and facing the challenges listed above, whilst continuing to grow the publication. Although it saddens me that I will not be seeing as much as I have been over the last three years I’ve been operating as Grumpy Gay Critic, seeing less shows is vital in order to maintain a professional reputation with the PRs and shows that I work with.
Massive thanks for Kevin Wilson Public Relations, Chris Hislop, Chloe Nelkin Consulting, The Corner Shop PR, Mark Senior PR, David Burns PR, and DeWynters: just some of the fantastic publicists who I’ve worked with, bared with me, and supported Grumpy Gay Critic this year. Also, Rebecca Felgate and Sammi O’Neil for their fantastic work with making Grumpy Gay Critic feel very much a part of Theatre Bloggers.