For once, the merging of two online brands may actually benefit the end-user. By now you’ve likely heard that Flixster has purchased Rotten Tomatoes from IGN Entertainment, and its parent company Fox. The news has been everywhere today, including (where I picked it up) on Mashable. The deal will unite two of the biggest aggregators of movie opinions on the web — one that collects the ratings of fans (Flixster) and one that is known for its averaging of critics’ scores (RT). It is perhaps the perfect storm of movie review crowd-sourcing.

And I would like to explain why…

To Each, It’s Own

Each of these web applications has its own unique features, which have driven their success up to this point. For Flixster, it was the amazing integration with Facebook and their eventual iPhone application that allowed them to reach out and grab a place in the market, right next to IMDB’s user voting system. The Facebook application allowed users to not only rate films, but share those with their friends on the top social networking platform in the world. And it was easy, and reliable. Two things that are synonymous with success on the web.

For Rotten Tomatoes, it was the aggregation of a wide range of film critics, most notably those in the Online Film Critics Association. With the support of its members (many of whom fed traffic to RT via their own sites), Rotten Tomatoes became the go-to site for a generation of film geeks. A simple Fresh or Rotten rating could mean millions of dollars in box office receipts, either way.

It’s Not IMDB, It’s Not MetaCritic

If there’s one thing that this merger would do, it would be to put serious pressure on the apps’ two main competitors: IMDB and MetaCritic. Each of these competitors has its own unique uses for movie fans. IMDB will continue to be the top pick for users who are looking for information about films, new or old. MetaCritic will continue to sell its hand-picked critic rankings as the most reputable score for movies each week. But when it comes to aggregating scores, neither will be able to do both as effectively as the Flixster/RT hybrid. MetaCritic has user scoring, but doesn’t have the user base of Flixster. IMDB does collect reviews from reputable critics, but does not average out scores or even deliver sortable results.

The Questions That Remain

While it is easy to see the potential in such an acquisition, there are questions. What will this new one-stop-shop of the future look like? Will it all exist under the Flixster brand name? Will the cutesy tomato icons go the way of the Dodo bird? Will they operate separately?

In order to truly give users the most out this deal — the “blockbuster double-bill” that Flixster CEO and co-founder Joe Greenstein says that it will be — the system will have to be combined. It will need to be as user-friendly as Rotten Tomatoes, and have the on-the-go functionality and social networking integration of Flixster. In short, the hardest work is ahead of Flixster, who will now be tasked with creating something that lives up to the promise of such a perfect acquisition. As someone who has used their product for a while, I can’t say that I have anything but faith in them.

What do you think?


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