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Local entertainment critics: Be national or be gone 12/3/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in EntertainmentCritics.

Digital technology has been especially cruel to the local entertainment critic, one of the most endangered positions in today’s news outlets. For movie reviews, Internet users can consult the opinions of the most talented and engaging reviewers in the English-speaking world, as well as the ratings and opinions of ordinary people. The fact that a critic lives nearby is irrelevant. More and more entertainment can be consumed at home via the Internet, DVD’s, big screen TV’s, and video games, softening the demand for live theater and the arts. Worse still, users can now watch much of this entertainment on-demand, anytime over a period of years, sapping much of the timeliness, excitement, and interest from the reviewers’ work.

But while the market for local entertainment critics is evaporating, the opportunities for national entertainment critics are vast. Users need help sorting the wheat from the chaff among the multitudes of entertainment choices they now face. Search engines and rankings alone will never cut it when it comes to predicting individual tastes. These technologies can aid human judgment, but they cannot replace it, as the sometimes helpful but often ridiculously wrong Amazon book recommendations remind us. To survive, critics will likely have to choose a market segment in which they can be the best, for example be an expert in a particular genre or a favorite among a particular demographic. While U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill once said that all politics is local, few critics can afford to be.


1. Wendy Withers - 12/3/07

Bob Ross, my favorite movie critic and former Tampa Tribune columnist lost his job because of paper-wide layoffs. I think I picked the wrong time to be born, since my long-term goal has always been to be an entertainment columnists and/or movie critic. I guess I could always be the preferred critic for obscure indie and cult films.

2. Steve Boriss - 12/3/07

Wendy, I wouldn’t be so sure about that. This may be the very best time to be born. Once there is a consensus on how to monetize the web, with a successful blog you would be able to keep all the money for yourself. Good luck!

3. Ydobon - 12/4/07


Try The Cranky Critic for some ideas.

4. Ydobon - 12/4/07

And now for a completely different look at the Future of News, CBS News Seeking Vibrant Reporter/Host for Eco Beat.

You are wicked smart, funny, irreverent and hip, oozing enthusiasm and creative energy. This position requires strong people, reporting, story telling and writing skills. Managing tight deadlines should be second nature. Knowledge of the enviro beat is a big plus, but not a requirement.

5. bluntnib - 12/4/07

Why not redeploy critics to seek out and review digital content relevant to their audience?
Write-up the local bands on MySpace for example, YouTube videos shot in the neighbourhood, downloadable shows from the networks with an overlooked local angle. That’d make for great copy AND great cross-promotion between a newspaper and its website

6. Steve Boriss - 12/4/07

Bluntnib, I like your thinking. Two core survival strategies for local journalists are producing content that has a direct impact on viewers’ lives as hyperlocal news does, and offering material that is not available anywhere else. You seem to be applying these principles to the critics’ skill set.

7. bluntnib - 12/4/07

Thanks Steve
My view is they have adapt in this way or die out

8. Ydobon - 12/4/07

From the Hartford Courant article,

These actions …compellingly demonstrate the decreasing value that those in position to influence public opinion place of the arts to a society,” wrote Henry Fogel in his blog on ArtsJournal.com.

That’s gibberish.

What Fogel actually said, on ArtsJournal.com
was, “These actions …compellingly demonstrate the decreasing value that those in position to influence public opinion place on the value of the arts to a society.

They can’t copy and paste.

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