Online reviewers: Taking a critical look at critics


By: Logan Pierce, Editor-in-chief

The Internet has changed the requirements for fame. Achieving celebrity status no longer involves working in a California diner, hoping to be discovered. No, all that is required is to inform the world, “Charlie bit me.” Viral videos on YouTube have allowed people to experience 15 minutes of fame without leaving the comforts of home.

In a similar vein, critics and reviewers who appear exclusively online are able to make a name for themselves, and arguably more importantly, make money. Leonard Maltin, Gene Shalit, and Roger Ebert are renowned for their critical analysis of entertainment and popular culture. Today however, these giants of judicious journalism find themselves sharing the spotlight with online personalities who go by such names as The Nostalgia Critic, Linkara, and Harry Plinkett.

The website thatguywiththeglasses.com was launched April 2008, with Doug Walker (The Nostalgia Critic) as the flagship review show. Michael Michaud, CEO of the parent company Channel Awesome, founded the site after he and two others were laid off from their jobs at Circuit City in 2007.

The review shows featured on the website update weekly, each show catering to a particular niche of popular culture. The Nostalgia Critic, who turns 30 this year, focuses his show on cartoons or movies from the 80s and 90s (i.e. what 30-year-olds would consider to be nostalgic). Linkara (Lewis Lovhaug) uses his show, Atop the Fouth Wall, to review comic books. There are more than 50 reviewers employed at Channel Awesome.

The website makes its money from advertisers, who play one 20 second commercial at the beginning and end of each review. Once the website launched, the viewers started appearing; shows like The Nostalgia Critic began to average 100,000 to 200,000 viewers per week. Thatguywiththeglasses.com also gained 14 million page views per month. The website earns roughly $10,000 per month thanks to ad revenue, and has gained upwards of 11,000 dollars through donations.

On Jan. 6, 2011, Walker was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year in Las Vegas at the 4th Annual Mashable Awards. Other Internet personalities have made names for themselves as reviewers. The website redlettermedia.com and the Plinkett Star Wars reviews made waves with their irreverent analysis of the Star Wars prequels. Some Star Wars fans denounce them, while others love them. Ebert is a fan of Plinkett. “I was pretty much sure I didn’t have it with me to endure another review of [Revenge of the Sith]. Mr. Plinkett demonstrates to me that I was mistaken.” Ebert said.

What this modern excess of critics means for Hollywood is a constant widespread word-of–mouth campaign. The public can more easily be made aware of the quality of a film before seeing it. While these new critics may not change the quality of films released by the movie industry, their presence has changed what it means to be a critic who entertains through analysis.

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