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Critics Round Up Rides Again: Why the Site That Shut Down Yesterday Is Keeping Its Doors Open Today

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire May 13, 2014 at 3:58PM

Twitter couldn't save "Community," but the social media outcry over the arthouse aggregator's demise convinced founder James Kang to keep its virtual doors open.
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CRU

Remember yesterday, when the arthouse aggregator Critics Round Up was shutting down due to low web traffic? Yeah, scratch that. After the outcry over the site's abrupt closing, founder James Kang has made the decision not to close CRU's doors after all. Criticwire reached out to him for an explanation.

Criticwire: What happened to the site when you announced you were shutting down yesterday, and how did that change your mind?

James Kang: My numbers had been steadily declining for the past three weeks and I didn't think they would improve. That combined with me being a pessimistic, hard-to-motivate person convinced me there was no salvaging the site.

Yesterday when I announced the site's end, I reached a near-unprecedented level of interest. The numbers hadn't been that good since my first week. I wasn't expecting it, but this seemed to shake off the gradual decline in a big way.


The other thing that changed my mind was seeing the compliments and support from Twitter. Some of them were from critics I admired who I didn't even realize used my site at all. So the high traffic numbers made me feel hopeful about the site's future and the compliments made me realize that my effort was actually being appreciated. This built my morale back up enough to want to cover Cannes.

CW: How did the reaction compare to what you were expecting?

JK: As a pessimist, my guess was that movie Twitter would give the announcement a big collective shrug. I was startled by how many people said they would miss the site.

CW: Where did the idea for CRU come from in the first place, and why do you think it has a distinct place amid the Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritics (and Criticwires) of the world?

JK: The idea for Critics Round Up primarily came from two things I wanted to see someone do: a link archive similar to what Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic do, except better-curated, like the way David Hudson rounds up links. The other thing I wanted to see was an aggregator where the ultimate average better-reflected the kinds of critics David and I like instead of the more populist critics that Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic include.

CW: You shut the site down just before Cannes because you weren't prepared to put in the 12-hour days necessary to keep track of the reviews coming in off the Croisette. Are you ready for it now?

JK: I need to correct myself. I don't know where I got the "12-hour" number from, but looking at my records, that's an exaggeration. I typically logged 11 hours, but that includes lunch (I don't eat breakfast), so it's more like I worked 10.5 hours a day during Cannes last year.

Yes, I'm definitely ready now. I feel like Cannes will in some ways wipe the slate clean and help me recover from these depressing past few weeks. I can restart an ad campaign during the festival, bring my numbers back up and move forward with greater determination.


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