Has New Media Killed The Fringe?



According to recent press reports, the once-bouyant London fringe is dying despite new plays getting great critical notices, and while social media is being blamed nobody is looking to the real reason.

When Time Out’s original magazine folded at the end of last year, London’s listings were lost – to be honest, the paper had been visibly dying for at least three years, but when it became a paid-advert gossip rag it was no longer possible to find Greater London’s fringe plays in a single place.

Now an amalgam of The Londonist, The Arbutarian, What’s On and RunRiot partially fill the gap, but even taken together with the collapse of Dress Circle we still have no complete listings, and it’s impossible to know what’s running unless you’re already aware of the venue. For example, ‘Dear World’, a heavyweight fringe production running in the centre of the city (Charing Cross), big-budget and weighted with stars, has not received a single press review so far, despite the fact that it will most likely transfer to Broadway. The problem – it’s in a theatre that gets no passing trade, one that most people don’t even know exists.

So why doesn’t The Big Issue up its game and sell listings? With print-on-demand available, wouldn’t it make the magazine indispensable in different cities?

London is a city of villages, and every single one has a complex entertainment life. But how on earth do you replace a decades-old search engine and connect with audiences who’d like an alternative to the Disneyfied tat of the West End? The quality is there, and thanks to the above websites many shows are being listed, but the connectivity to the wide diversity of entertaining/thought-provoking work can’t easily be discovered.

4 comments on “Has New Media Killed The Fringe?”

  1. Mark Elliott says:

    Hi, perhaps there’s a business opportunity for you there…

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Admin: The New York Times (2/16) has an article on the growing market for short stories, largely spurred by electronic readers, short reading times, and the small screens. The .99 Kindle Shorts are mentioned as are the “sampling” of stories in new collections. It reports the story story market in the States has been growing for five years. As they say: seriously, you need to check it out.

  3. Matthew Davis says:

    When “The Big Issue” started its Manchester-based edition almost 20 years, the reason I bought it was because it WAS a listing magazine. Charity was all very well, but I made sure I bought it every week because it listed all the different theatres, clubs, cinemas stand-ups and unclassifiable events. I moved to a city that didn’t have a “Big Issue”, but when I next bought a copy it had become just a mazine and had lost it’s unique selling point

  4. Helen Martin says:

    We have a weekly paper called The Georgia Straight (a take-off of the Georgia Strait body of water at our front door) which started in the sixties as a counter culture, shock the straights, criticize society sort of underground publication. Those people are now all mainstream and the paper came with them, but it kept its coverage of all sorts of theatre odds and sods, so it’s still the place to go to find what’s on in those funny little back alley clubs and basement theatres as well as the big production numbers. I was reading it over coffee and was brought up short by a slightly off-colour piece you wouldn’t find in the dailies, but then I remembered, right it’s the Straight.Is there a reason other places can’t have this sort of thing?

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