The Review Landscape on Digital Content
The object of a review is to tell the reader whenever the product is “good” or “bad.” Before the rise of digital media, the criteria of a product or creative work was easily defined by asking whenever a) is it finished ,b) open to buying for money or through trading and c) if it has any artistic value. Examples would be movies, books and video games. This has recently changed due to the rise of new media and the change of media consumption. The question now is: How do you review these types of new media for the public? Should they even be reviewed? I’m going to give my perspective on these questions while analyzing the current digital media landscape.
First and foremost, what is new media or web original content? My definition would be all types of media and content developed after the rise of the Internet. This would include blogs, web videos, podcasts and web comics. Now how do you “review” these types of content? Unlike most non-web original content, these types of media don’t have ends or a concluded narrative. They don’t have a typical cost attached to them. To better explain this argument let’s compare traditional comic books with web comics. After a quick search on Google, the searcher will find reviews on both comic books and collections of comic books (trade paperbacks) on multiple sites such as IGN and Comic Book Resources. Each review will determine whenever the content is good by looking at the finished product. Notice the lack of reviews on web comics on these major websites. My theory would be that a type of conflict happens when web original content is reviewed by the established standards of reviewing content. Where does that leave web comics and other web original content?
Web comics are published online either in daily, weekly or whenever the author finishes updates. Sure, some web comics end up being published in trade paperbacks such as Axe Cop but these are the exceptions to the rule. Most web comics are free to read with any internet browser and paying through a service like Patreon is completely optional. So how does a reviewer sit down and review web comics in order to determine its value? Does he review webpage by webpage? By story arc? In its entirely? Those are the types of questions that web original media raises through its unique method of digital distribution. In order to give one final look at this phenomenon, let’s look at YouTube videos.
At the moment of writing this piece, PewDiePie holds the rank of the most subscribed YouTube channel in the world. The question remains though. How do you review PewDiePie’s channel? By video? Impossible since he uploads content everyday and has thousands of videos. In its entirely? That is hours of content. Would the review get outdated over time? Then how? Here is what I propose. A new lexicon and criteria for reviewing content that is more fluid than the current language of reviewing. That way creative works that doesn’t fit into traditional constraints of “content” can be critiqued alongside other creative works such as music and film. This new lexicon can also be applied to older media that is changing rapidly due to the Internet such as video games that are updated to have a different experience after the launch of the game. Now to the second question raised at the beginning of this piece. Should this web original content be reviewed?
According to TV Tropes, the answer would be yes but let’s look at the numbers. Websites and blogs gets thousands of views daily if not millions. YouTube has multiple channels with millions of subscribers. Podcasts are receiving more and more attention by the year. With these kind of numbers, how can one argue against the cultural impact of new media? Having said that, it is time to take these web original content to the next level and that is to be reviewed/criticized among its other media brethren. Hopefully reviews of YouTube channels and podcasts will appear over time in major newspapers and major media outlets alongside movies and the arts.
Want to read more? Go to achievementcritic.wordpress.com for more of my writing and reviews on video games (shameless plugin, I know).