Roger Ebert and the Age of Influencers

Last week marked the beginning of the 38th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Award-winning film critic, Roger Ebert once called TIFF “the most important film festival in North America.” It’s fitting that before the opening film, the late journalist, and screenwriter was celebrated for the key roles he played in the film community, and how his influence expanded the significance Toronto holds in the cinematic world.

Ebert was the film critic that had as much or more celebrity than those he reviewed thanks to his global platform, credibility, and his passion for film. He was the definition of an influencer in the cinema industry.

After his death on April 4, 2013 the question of who would assume the position of the most trusted film critic emerged. If there were a critic as trusted and celebrated as Roger Ebert today, would we look for the thumb up or thumb down from them to make a decision?

Everyday, there is a new way social media is reshaping the landscape of how people in developed and emerging markets react to the world around them. Now, more than ever we see it putting an end to the visibility of elitist opinion leaders.

If you’re looking for an opinion on a recent film release, it becomes a show of hands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers to decide if you will be heading to the movies, forcing the educated journalist to become a blurb on the back of a DVD case.

Less and less, influencers are made up of big-ticket celebrities that endorse a product or a call to action, and more often, influencers are now those that are close to your own social networks; family members, friends, people who look like you, talk like you and those that you feel you have a personal connection with, in real life or not-so-real life.

In the slow destruction social media has caused to celebrity influencers as we know them, it has also created platforms of strong, underground communities built for specific areas of interest, like cinema. The diplomacy of online writing allows for more focused discussion, and perhaps a greater comfort zone for niche writers.

In charge of finding influencers for a brand, I might look to somewhat established bloggers. They are the ones who have built an audience from doing what they enjoy. However, there may be a risk of mid-level bloggers gaining a celebrity status that causes them to lose charm, and authenticity. If the next Roger Ebert is among them, a blogger that gains celebrity from a skill-set, doing what they love instead of being flashy for the sake of it, is an opinion leader that might be worth listening to, but that’s just my opinion.

For more on TIFF visit

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