In the summer of 1999, I negotiated an investment deal to try and save InTheater Magazine from shutdown with publisher Michael A. Parker and his dad, Richard Parker of Parker Publishing & Communications. InTheater covered Broadway and Off Broadway quite extensively, as well as London’s West End, regional theatre, New York cabaret, etc.
The proposal was to move their offices into mine (cheaper space), retain editorial and photography staff, increase North American staff presence in major cities, find a cheaper, more central printer (not the Parkers printer), within a year, achieve a 40% digital/60% print strategy, evolving over 10 years to 70% digital/30% print strategy with an emphasis on visuals. Sadly, it was not accepted. The magazine folded later in the year. Some good and talented people lost their jobs.
Prior to that, I had established a web presence for InTheater as part of my larger Buy Broadway.com/Theatre.com business, using snippets and features where the lackluster magazine family management would agree to provide content and I would use that content to try and drive subscription sales to them. I also hired various leading theatre journalists such as Ken Mandelbaum to write exclusively for the InTheater site.
I guess in hindsight, this was the moment of confluence of print vs. digital… I was ahead of my time, they were behind the times.
As Founder and CEO of Theatre.com and BuyBroadway.com. The pioneer in moving the Broadway industry onto the internet. The theatre press branded me as “Toby is the man pushing theatre, kicking and screaming, into cyberspace.” What started in 1989 as a Broadway industry service called ShowCall via dialup BBS for members of the League of American Theatre Producers evolved onto the world wide web in the early 90’s, and shortly after this, the vast majority of Broadway shows (starting with my production of Victor/Victoria) and theatrical organizations followed. The “Super site of Broadway” became a publicly traded company, prior to my re-branding it as Theatre.com at the Minskoff Theatre.
Described by Variety Magazine as a “marketing powerhouse“, it was the single largest theatre community in the world with over 180,000 active members (in the 1990’s this was massive). From buying official Broadway tickets and souvenirs, providing detailed global show listings, interactive show study & educational guides, live streaming shows and events (including many Opening Nights live broadcasts), industry news from major theatre journalists, pictures and videos, games, messaging directly to Broadway cast’s backstage or even licensing a musical, theatre.com offered it all in a single, easy-to-use interface to theatregoers globally.