Rotten Tomatoes Diversifies Critic Pool to Strengthen Service

In an effort to make its Tomatometer ranking of movies and TV shows even stronger, popular review aggregation service Rotten Tomatoes made a move this week to add more female and minority reviewers. By revising its criteria for new critics, the service aims to include a wider range of voices, including those from the increasing number of reviewers gaining audiences via podcasts and YouTube. In order to be more inclusive, Rotten Tomatoes has adjusted its requirements that have thus far been based largely on employment duration and scale of publishing. As a result of the changes, 200 new critics were added to the site yesterday.

“Who qualifies as a critic has long been a touchy subject for the site, which boils down hundreds of reviews to give films and television shows ‘fresh’ or ‘rotten’ scores on its Tomatometer,” explains The New York Times. “Some filmmakers complain bitterly that Rotten Tomatoes casts too wide a net already, pulling in reviews from roughly 4,400 critics worldwide, mixing bloggers with more established appraisers.”

However, Rotten Tomatoes believes that expanding the criteria will only strengthen its service.

“It will always be a better product if it has more voices,” suggested Fandango president Paul Yanover (Fandango owns Rotten Tomatoes). “We are still looking for the highest quality criticism.”

According to recent research by the University of Southern California, white male critics wrote the majority of reviews available on Rotten Tomatoes covering last year’s 100 highest-grossing movies. In addition, a San Diego State University study “found that male critics were harsher than women on female-led films,” reports NYT.

Notable film festivals have announced plans to offer “press credentials to underrepresented journalists” in order to address the lack of diversity in film criticism. Rotten Tomatoes hopes to become more inclusive with a similar approach that no longer focuses on scale.

“Under the site’s previous standard, for instance, broadcast critics had to be employed for at least two years by a national television or radio outlet,” notes NYT.

“The new broadcast criteria allow for local outlets and eliminate a specific time component for employment. Gone are requirements for publications based on print circulation. And online critics will no longer be required to have published a minimum of 100 reviews of at least 300 words in length across two calendar years at a site with at least 500,000 unique monthly visitors. The new standard is simply ‘consistent output for a minimum of two years.’”

“Rotten Tomatoes’ revamped criteria have an increased focus on the critic’s individual qualifications and body of work, rather than basing Tomatometer approval primarily on their publication or employer,” explains the press release. “This strategy will allow for a wider and more diverse pool of critics’ perspectives to be included.”

Rotten Tomatoes also announced its $100,000 grant program to help non-profit organizations assist new critics with the costs of attending film festivals.

For more details regarding the eligibility requirements for critics, visit the Rotten Tomatoes help desk.