Leading Indian film maker, Karan Johar, tweets,

Critics on television,newspapers,facebook,twitter,websites…and some even send sms’s…everyone is now a critic!! Where is the audience???” (Link)

It does sound profound, but give it a deeper thought – and go beyond just films…into products and services we consume.

1. Were people not sharing opinions earlier, before TV, newspapers, facebook, twitter happened? Yes, they were, but those opinions did not have wings. They remained within a small group of people.

2. Who is a critic? To put it in a brainlessly simple context, a critic is someone who used to have a wide audience for his opinion about a film (or a product/service). That he had knowledge about the stuff he was talking about is the other side of the explanation. In today’s world, critics continue to exist, but there are far more opinions from people who are semi-critics – opinions that are not grounded in deeper understanding of the medium. Is that a problem? Perhaps – but, it is, no doubt, the voice of the masses.

3. A film’s shelf life used to be rather short – a few months…and then it joins the long tail of a DVD list. Sharing opinion on films, therefore, immediately impacts the box office collections. If a film releases on a Friday and there are many negative opinions about the film by end of that day and Saturday, the weekend collection sees an impact. Earlier, producers used to tag a critic’s review and stars along with the film’s print and TV ads – but they were controlled…only positive reviews were tagged, for obvious reasons. But today, while these ads continue to exist, people trust opinions from 3 categories of people online – their immediate friends/peers/colleagues; unknown, but familiar people; and complete strangers. Critics used to come under the 2nd category, but they have been replaced by semi-critics.

4. So, what can producers do? As I had blogged earlier, this is the opinion economy. Here, opinions by people who are not considered experts matter too. If you think they do not matter and people will use their discretion to see through the lack of knowledge in opinions….you’re terribly mistaken. The main reason is that these coarse opinions speak in a language of the masses, without the edge or wit of a critic and that tends to be trusted too. So, the best way is to perhaps amplify positive opinions from people online and not just critics. In critics case, they already have an audience, but these micro/semi critics have a limited reach – digging positive reviews and amplifying them in mainstream media or owned properties of the film/producer could sure help! To some extent, producers already do this – ads which showcases opinions from people walking out of the theater are not new – the same thing could now be done online too!

For Karan, in particular: People continue to watch films. They even share immediate opinions with the people they saw it with. But when they go home…or on their way home (on a mobile phone), they beam their opinion to a much larger, extended set of people they are familiar with. So, opinions have taken wings and have phenomenal reach no matter how right/wrong/stupid/brilliant they are.

Need more? Read – From Attention Economy to Opinion Economy.