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Now We Are 7

Dateline: 16th November, 2008

Monday 17th November, 2008, is the British Theatre Guide's seventh birthday.

We launched on Sunday 17th November in 2001 and in our first full week online we had a total of 1,899 page views. Our first proper Newsletter went out on 25th. In it we announced that Sam Mendes was to leave the Donmar, but not before directing Nicole Kidman again (twice!). Judi Dench was to be honoured by BAFTA on her birthday; Blue/Orange, Over the Moon and Buddy were to close but Fame and Chicago extended; Cameron Mackintosh cut seat prices; Jerry Hall was to be one of Picasso's Women; Musselburgh's Brunton company was to close down and Del Boy would not be a Christmas millionaire.

We also announced the second half of the Manchester Royal Exchange 25th anniversary season and asked if the West End was in recession. Philip Fisher reviewed Jitney at the Lyttelton and Phantom Limb at the Riverside Studios.

The BTG had a predecessor. It began life as the Mining Company Guide to British Theatre, but that title soon changed because it was misleading (I know my father was a pitman, but now everyone seemed to think I was too!) and the Mining Company became About.com. It was (still is, actually) an American-owned company and at its height, in mid 2001, ran around 900 sites on all kinds of subjects. The owner Scott Kurnit sold the company to Primedia which proceeded to carry out radical surgery, cutting every site which did not have a Primedia print equivalent. 300 of us were "let go" on the same day - a veritable night of the long knives!

I received incredible support from many About British Theatre visitors, which encouraged me to start the BTG - so named, by the way, because, under the old dispensation, those of us who ran the sites were called Guides: I was the Guide to British Theatre.

When we started, the BTG was Philip and I. Now we have 38 reviewers, with a presence in most parts of the country as well as in New York and Paris. We are averaging around 120,000 page views a week, peaking a couple of weeks back at 140,000. We usually carry between twenty and thirty reviews each week.

The number of pages on the site is huge, getting on towards 10,000. There are over 900 articles, over 4,700 news pages, over 1,500 reviews from the Edinburgh Fringe, over 3,800 other reviews and 160 interviews.

There are numerous companies which claim to measure the popularity of websites and they rarely, if ever, agree, but one - Ranking.com - this month ranks the BTG as fifth in the world in the Performing Arts/Theatre category, behind on US site and three London-centric UK-based sites. It would be nice to think that they are right, but who can tell?

We still operate in the same way as we did in 2001. We have no income apart from what we get from 1st 4 London Theatre's sponsorship, Google Adwords and commision from Amazon, all of which pay the costs of hosting the site and other expenses but no more. None of us get paid. It is truly a labour of love...

So you'll surely excuse this little bit of self-indulgence!

Articles from 2008
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Articles from 2006
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Articles from 2001
Articles from 2000
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©Peter Lathan 2008