Site Update: Message Board Changes + We Hear You

It's been an unexpected, educational and I think ultimately productive couple of days here at BroadwayWorld, and I wanted to directly address some of the social media chatter (and New York Times article) concerning abuse of our Message Boards, and more importantly, convey our commitment to making them a more valuable, and safer place for the community that we not only cherish, but have been a steadfast member and supporter of for more than a decade.

Online negativity, and trolling is a problem that's far from unique to BroadwayWorld or the Broadway world, but we are committed to doing our part to counteract it in our neck of the digital woods.

When I started the web site, it was a side project, done for fun while heading up IT for a major technical publishing company. Today, it's grown into the largest theatre web site in the world, covering live theatre both in New York, 100 cities across the US and 30 countries worldwide. I couldn't be more proud of our expansive daily coverage, and ability to connect the arts with more than 5 million monthly visitors nationwide.

When the site began, it was literally just a message board, and online voting for the first BWW Fan's Choice Awards. Today, it's become so much more than that, and the message boards represent about 10% of the site's traffic.

Garnering thousands of messages a day, and approaching our 6 millionth message since launching, the boards are entertaining, informative, and never dull with contributions by some of the most ardent, devoted, well informed theater going consumers. They're buying tickets, they're supporting performers and the arts and they're discussing what they love.

We have been extremely reactive via a tireless team of moderators, and there's never been a post that we've been asked to take down because it violates guidelines, that we've not reacted to and removed ... usually within the hour.

We've been called on, and called out this week by many in the theatre community who we deeply admire and respect about some of the negative aspects of the message board, bitchiness by a handful of posters and their feelings that it interferes with and brings down much of what we're working on elsewhere. Sharing opinions, both positive and negative is part of what makes live theatre so exciting, but snark for snark's sake, isn't. People visit the board for many reasons and the commentary is mostly positive, astute, creating demand, awareness and reach and positive information. It is, has been, and will remain the largest collection of theatre fans and ticket buyers in the world, bar none. It would be wrong of us to ignore these facts, and those posters.

Our heads aren't in the sand though regarding your feedback, and it's time to fix what's 'broken' on it though.

So, what are we doing about it?

Firstly, we instituted a new 'Report Abuse' function, making it easier for readers to report a message that violates our guidelines. We've already seen an uptick in interaction on posts both old and new.

Second, as many have requested, we've made a change to our right navigation bar, which removes all links to the message board, including thread title teases from our homepage and editorial content and every other page of the site. After talking with many who want to come to the site, engage with the content, but not be lured into reader generated discussions, we think this is a good solution to preserve the board, its independence and its positive aspects, but to host it in a more separate environment that's clearly separate from our editorial coverage.

Third, we have added additional moderators to the team to make sure that our clear guidelines regarding personal attacks, and abuse are enforced constantly and consistently.

We're making one more announcement today, and that's going to be an October Benefit, timed to National Bully Prevention Month. We are committing the site's resources and will pick up all the costs to produce something dedicated to raising awareness for online bullying of all sorts. It's our sincere wish, that those that have reached out to us asking for us to make the changes that we have today, will join us and lend their voices with us, to the cause later this year.

These are small changes, but part of a larger strategy and ongoing talks to continue to better engage, inform, interact with and support the community and to make sure that we're a part of the solution, and never the problem.

We look forward to continued talks, continued evolution and continued improvements that both preserve the message board community, and make it clear that we're engaged to keep engaging with you.

As always, we, and I personally am reachable 24/7 and appreciate your readership and support!

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