Mixed Reception

 

Whether you were looking for a non-stop page turner, a captivating musical album, or simply an entertaining movie or videogame to bask in with a couple of friends, one of your first destinations would be online review aggregators websites such as Rotten Tomatoes, goodreads, or Metacritic… In the era of social media, these websites have played a crucial role in determining how good a book, album, movie, or video game is for hundreds of consumers. Therefore, it has become vital for us to scrutinize this form of media, in order to figure out just how far these so called “aggregators” affect our day-to-day choices and the industry in general.

First off, a review aggregator is a system that collects various accounted reviews from all around the web for a specific product. After amassing these reviews, aggregators calculate an approximate average by assigning a numerical score to each review based on its author’s degree of positive praise.

However, when many renowned critics choose not to adopt any stars, grades or letters as reviewing systems for their websites, the basis on which a review aggregator gives a numeric value becomes unclear. That’s when subjectivity comes in…

Someone once told me, an Objective review is a fictitious one. While we might have argued for hours, at the end of the day I found myself wondering and questioning the credibility of these online aggregators.

If aggregators were once lauded for accurately calculating averages for hoarded reviews, the fact that they are willing to self-appoint a score despite the author’s withhold, automatically fires bullets on the shell of their venerated impartiality.

While the best way to gain consumer insight is qualitative research, most of us won’t have time to check on dozens of online articles, and would settle for the review aggregator’ collective score. But why not settle for another consumer’s perspective on the product?

Most aggregators today allow users to cast their ballots, voting for the product themselves. Some of the contrast I noticed between the critics score and the user score however is quite alarming. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes for example, the 2014 movie “America: Imagine the World Without Her “currently sits at an 8% critic score based on 24 counted critics reviews, while the user score hovers at 84% approval rating based on nearly 12,000 user votes[1]. While a single user score is undoubtedly a personal take on the work that can’t remotely be compared to a critic’s expertise, a widespread global approval incites us to question this sparking controversy. So did the critics hate the movie that badly? Most importantly how does “Rotten tomatoes”, one of the leading review aggregators of today, operate?

With Rotten Tomatoes, the critics’ score meter (namely “tomatometer”) is a record of critical agreement only, and doesn’t measure the film’s overall quality in the eyes of critics. With the only two options on the table being either “Fresh” or “Rotten”, this review aggregator could reduce a 900 word review to a simple plus or minus! Therefore, if a product got a mixed or divisive reception from critics, it might end up with a rotten 8% even if many of the critics praised different aspects of the product despite criticizing others. By fluctuating between “good » or « bad » we sacrifice delving into the gray areas; therefore exposing a major flaw in the review aggregating system.

My advice for you is to never follow review aggregators. Not only because of masked objectivity, but because their systems are flawed so deeply that average or standard products are destined to sink. Alternatively, even user scores can widely be inaccurate and misleading sometimes: A handful of users’ objectively scathing reviews can rapidly dim out in the blaze of a scorching massive fanbase that will blindly award a 10/10 for their “supposedly” one of kind product.

I believe a perfect review, is a recipe that must skillfully blend the subjective with the objective, opinions with facts, mixing them together into a cohesive whole that explains to the reader how the author felt while sharing a dash of professionalism. Sadly with the persnickety critics of today, this vision is nothing but a distant mirage… Leaving us mourning for the days when reviews were more than just a number.

With that being said, the biggest problem with consumers today is that they heavily rely on critics or others for advice, unknowingly turning them into their authority for blind adherence. Losing much focus along the way on what truly matters: a satisfying product for the consumer to savor. Sometimes, not following the general line of thought could lead to finding an unprecedented surprise, and who knows… a product of mixed reception might just be your next favorite thing!

 

Anthony Farhat

Law student

[1] https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/america_imagine_the_world_without_her_2014/

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