Will review journalism survive at the flourishing Fringe Festival?

The Fringe continues to grow culturally, socially and financially each year, but are Edinburgh and its reporters prepared to handle its continuous growth?

REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

By Clare Cavanagh | Oct 18, 2019

The city has been buzzing this year as tourists arrived in their droves to celebrate the Edinburgh Fringe 2019. This festival, established in 1947 was originally designed to offer a more creative and artistic alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, and continues to build year on year. 

REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Now considered to be ‘the world’s biggest art festival’, it offers opportunities for people internationally to display their artistic talent, whether it be theatre, comedy or literary. In 2018, there were 3,548 shows and over 55,000 performances and this year’s ticket numbers rocketed once again to over 3 million ticket sales for the first time. But what effect will this have on news publishers reporting on the festival?

The Guardian reported a slash in coverage this year from Scottish and other UK newspaper critics, based on the cost of journalists attending and company budget cuts. “The falling away of the number of critics who can afford to come up to the festival has a cumulative effect,” says comedy PR Mel Brown. For the Fringe,“the word of proper, quality reviewers really matters.” But if journalists cannot attend, how can they explore alternative ways of providing quality stories during Fringe time?

REUTERS/Jon Super

News publishers now confronting the future of the Festival, are getting to grips with the limits presented by space, time and resource that they are able to invest in covering the sprawling month long celebration. Rather than remaining focused on reporting the continuous rise in ticket sales, and perpetuating review culture, international media companies can start navigating the audience experience behind this cultural behemoth, and diversify their content offering accordingly. 

To assist publishers in their quest for unique content, the Edinburgh Fringe provides a guide for upcoming performers each year, indicating the significance of engaging with journalists, even from afar. This includes advice on how to build their own individual marketing strategies, build relationships with journalists, develop strong media releases and advice on sending images to the media are amongst many encouraging elements. 

As the Fringe itself recommends, the best most unique moments (beyond the stage and show reviews) can be found on social media, promoted by the performers who are closest to the action. This provides a mass of user driven content for international media companies who want to look deeper and find those stories yet untold. By utilising these social stories, Publishers can provide readers with a different festival perspective, with real time insights which explore the full aspect of the Fringe. 

Indeed, publications who diversify their festival content away from the traditional review schematic to incorporate more audience focused content could see success. User Generated Content in particular may enable news publishers to capture a more diverse perspective of Edinburgh fringe and avoid creating an echo chamber of reviews for popular shows.

REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Readdressing the reliance on traditional reviews may enable publications the opportunity to focus on the many other aspects of the Festivals, support arts journalism and gain further interaction from attendees and readers internationally.

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