Rotten Tomatoes Announces Major Overhaul to Their Critics Review Process

Popular critical aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes has announced some sweeping changes to the [...]

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Changes

Popular critical aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes has announced some sweeping changes to the criteria for who and what it will allow on its platform.

In a dual announcement on its own site, and in a featured EW article, Rotten Tomatoes has announced the following changes to its critics criteria:

  1. Podcast and video reviews will now be considered in overall scores, alongside written reviews.
  2. Critic certification rules have been relaxed, so that "prolific reviewers who might not be full-time employees of a known publication," are also eligible for the site. "Insight, Audience, Quality, and Dedication" are the criteria mentioned for a potential reviewer.
  3. There's also a tease that other changes will be revealed in forthcoming "waves" of announcements.

Rotten Tomatoes took a much more dramatic approach to announcing this big revision, with a big editorial breakdown on its site that detailed the entire 20-year history of the site, and its evolving mission. Here's what the site states as its intention for making the changes:

"In revamping our Critics Criteria, we sought to bring the criteria into better alignment with the way media works today, to promote the inclusion of more voices that reflect the varied groups of people who consume entertainment, and to maintain the high standards we've always set for inclusion in the group of Tomatometer-approved critics."

When assessing applications from those wishing to be a Tomatometer-approved critic, or a Tomatometer-approved publication, we now take into consideration four key values as well as a revised set of eligibility requirements. These values are Insight, Audience, Quality, and Dedication, and you can find a full breakdown of each value here.

On our critics page, you can meet some of the critics who embody these values, among them more than 200 critics who have been Tomatometer-approved as of today. And stay tuned, because we will be adding hundreds more as the year goes on. We'll be regularly updating the Critic Spotlight section of the page with new critic profiles, including links to their work and social media profiles – you may just find your next favorite podcaster, writer, or vlogger there.

One key thing to note on the value of "Audience" is that while we still seek critics and publications with a wide reach, we also give weight to those applicants whose coverage may be less wide-reaching, but which serves underrepresented groups. Similarly, elements of our eligibility requirements that in the past proved obstacles for some insightful and dedicated self-published individuals and freelancers have been rethought to align with the way many are working today. Our requirements have also been updated to reflect the growing number of platforms and different types of media on which people are sharing their movie and TV reviews."

In truth, this is something of an ironic move. Rotten Tomatoes has had a hard time maintaining its precarious balance over the industry, in recent years. The site's aggregate rankings can actually make or break a film's opening weekend haul, which some cinephiles see as a "dumbing-down" of the entire critical process.

Similarly, Rotten Tomatoes already has something of a stigma for being the aggregate that already "lets in anybody," as opposed to competitor Metacritic, which is seen as the more "official" selection of critical voices. In the last year or so, social justice debates have poured over into Rotten Tomatoes' platform, with many accusing the site of helping to maintain close-minded industry standards that mainly elevate white male critical voices.

In that sense, it will be interesting to see if the expanded range of critical voices outweighs the stigma that "amateurs" are being allowed to run rampant on the site. It will also be curious to see if the overall nature of the aggregate scores change, and if they get more or less respect, now that they will come from wider pool of sources.