Saturday, February 14, 2015

More Bad Behavior From TDF?...and Playbill Too?

Those irrepressible scamps at TDF are at it again!

Last year, @TKTS, the Twitter feed for TDF-owned TKTS discount ticket centers (purveyors of Broadway, Off Broadway and other theater tickets) was seen tweeting specific ads for certain shows, highlighting the discounts offered on each show, to the detriment of the financial health of those shows ( ).

That misguided and destructive practice seems to have abated, and the @TKTS feed is more appropriately concerning itself with attempting to "engage" with it's followers over theater news. Score one for the shows that must utilize TKTS to sell their tickets. Unasked for competition and promoting of discounts will never help the marketing plans for Broadway shows.

One might have hoped, this "mistake" would not be revisited upon Broadway, the producers of these shows, and the ticket buyers as well. That hope has turned out to be yet another mistake, because there is new malfeasance afoot.

I've noticed recently on, the online version of the venerable theater icon Playbill, the throwaway/collectable programs distributed at Broadway theaters, a similar situation to the problem from last year with the @TKTS feed. The following is just the latest example:

Due to problems with copying this screen shot, the author of the article, a fine and upcoming reporter named Playbill Staff, did not carry over for us to view here.

The problem with this story, of course, is that it is clearly an advertorial. Wikipedia defines "advertorial" as:

  1. An advertorial is an advertisement in the form of editorial content. The term "advertorial" is a blend of the words "advertisement" and "editorial." Merriam-Webster dates the origin of the word to 1946.

This uncredited article (Sorry, Mr. Staff) extolls the virtues of theater tickets purchased from the TKTS discount booths. The story links to the TKTS website, and offers a select list of offerings with the discounts prominently displayed. By choosing to list only a few of all the offerings available, this story confers a specific editorial recommendation pointing readers to these anointed shows. 

Since this story is so clearly an ad for the TKTS booths and the specific discounts they, and only they, may offer, one may wonder how much did TDF pay for this article and it's placement on's website? And, why isn't it, at the very least, clearly labeled as an advertorial? owes that, at the least, to their readers. Omitting this information is an egregious breach of journalistic ethics and it risks their credibility and integrity as a source of theater news and information. 

There is another aspect to this sordid mess. offers a "discount club" to it's readers, as a free service.  (see the right side of the above screen shot.) Just for signing up, members may avail themselves of discount ticket offers from Broadway and Off Broadway shows. Producers of shows pay Playbill for the privilege of inclusion. How can, in good conscience, run this club, then get in bed with TDF to offer discounts that typically beat the Playbill Club discounts? Sure, the fees for the advertorial must be a nice bonus, but running this sort of bushwa will only hurt you in the long run. 

I guess this is the sort of end run we might expect from TDF/TKTS. If they don't want to explicitly tweet their offers and discounts, better to pay to do it for them. It's disappointing to see wallow in the mud now as well. They have admirably refrained from hosting the kind of knuckleheaded chat boards seen on other theater websites, but now it seems that their slide to insignificance has begun. 

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