I recently received an e-mail from a representative of the English National Opera letting me know of their new interactive mini-site, which includes a multi-author blog, that has been designed to give a behind-the-scenes look at their upcoming production of Carmen. This is a use for blogging that had never occurred to me, but I could see immediately what a perfect tool it is for engaging the audience before the production even opens, and possibly even gaining some audience who wouldn’t have otherwise attended. Opera companies are having an increasingly difficult time maintaining subscription levels and ticket sales, so this blog is a great way of stepping outside the box to promote their production, particularly to a younger audience. By the way, if you’ve never seen Carmen, it’s a great show, particularly if you’re new to opera. Just take a quick listen to some of the music excerpts they’ve made available– you’ll find that much of the music is familiar to you.
The blog has multiple authors, including the director, artistic director, and others associated with the production. They plan to include behind the scenes videos, photos, interviews with key cast and crew and more. The site makes great use of video and audio clips and though I would normally disapprove of automatically playing music on a site as a visitor arrives, this is probably an exception (though it did interrupt my viewing of the back episodes of Jericho I’ve been watching while I work).
Things they’re doing that are good practices to emulate:
- they have a clear focus for the site and blog
- the design is very compelling and fits their focus perfectly
- they know their audience – they know that many of the people who make their way to the site may have no idea what a blog actually is, and have included a “new to blogging” post.
There are a couple of small changes I would suggest:
- Make the text at the top of the blog excerpts, “Carmen Blog”, clickable. I kept trying to click on it to get to the blog, and then realized the link was above in the menu.
- Indicate who the blog authors are in the box titled, “Our Bloggers”. It was rather difficult for me to get oriented to who everyone was who was participating.
What do you think of the site? They indicated to me an interest in hearing initial responses, comments and suggestions about the site, so feel free to leave your comments here or on their blog, and they will certainly be helpful to the site managers.
A footnote: they’re employing a neat widget for visualizing time-based events at the top of the main page. Check it out- it’s open source and from the instructions, it doesn’t look like it would be that hard to work with. The data all goes in through a relatively simple XML file and the instructions look pretty clear. Now… what could I use that for??