Rotten Tomatoes Gets Five-star Review for Its API Program
3X growth in traffic volume, API key distribution
By opening up its API to the public and simplifying its partner onboarding process with API management, Rotten Tomatoes has enjoyed an influx of business partnerships and new audiences. The API allows users to access the company’s Tomatometer scores and aggregation of movie reviews across multiple sites and devices.
The Leading Source for Movie Reviews
Rotten Tomatoes is the number one source for aggregated professional critics’ reviews on the web, housing more than 1 million review links and counting. The company’s trusted evergrowing movie coverage of more than 200,000 titles attracts over 30 million readers each month globally. Founded in 1998, Rotten Tomatoes provides a fun and informative way to discover critical reaction neatly summarized by its signature Tomatometer.
To capitalize on the utility of its reviews and its vast database, Rotten Tomatoes realized it needed to integrate with other entertainment companies. The company created a private API to help grow its strategic partnerships. “As the most trusted brand for reviews, we knew an API would allow us to better serve the space,” says Lily Liang, Product Manager at Rotten Tomatoes. “We wanted to be available to consumers any time, anywhere to help them select and discover what to watch.”
After two years, Rotten Tomatoes’ private API program became too successful for the company to manage on its own.
“We soon realized the great synergies we were having with partners in the entertainment space,” says Liang. However, the ROI that came with each new partner began to diminish.
Ready to Scale
Rotten Tomatoes could only handle one new partnership at a time, and it would be months before discussing the implementation process. Furthermore, having to start from scratch with the legal process for each new partner was grueling and resource intensive. “Our one-off integrations weren’t very scalable,” says Liang. “We were at a place where we were almost afraid to scale because we didn’t have the resources to manage it.”
The company also knew its API was missing a key set of partners: developers. “Rotten Tomatoes supports innovation, which can come from anyone,” says Liang. The company understood that in order to maximize the business value of its API and continue to satisfy people’s desire to have movie information at their fingertips, it needed to look outside of itself for the tools and best practices to manage its API as a successful, scalable program.
When looking at the landscape of API management vendors, Rotten Tomatoes only considered one company. “API management is what Intel® Services does, and Intel has proven that it does it well,” says Liang. Rotten Tomatoes signed on with Intel and externalized its API, offering five public APIs to both partners and developers, scaling the program so it would be available to anyone.
Once the implementation with the Intel® Services platform was complete, Liang notes that “Intel immediately solved all of the problems that were holding us back before.” Rotten Tomatoes’ branded partner portal provides standardized terms of service, eliminating the bulk of legal setbacks that made the company’s previous partner onboarding process so slow. With the partner portal, Rotten Tomatoes provides necessary information about its APIs, quick key procurement, and branding guidelines. Since Q1 2012, the Rotten Tomatoes API network has expanded dramatically, showing a 370 percent growth in the number of API keys distributed to developers and partners.
Rotten Tomatoes has gone from handling one partner at a time for an average of two months each in resourceintensive conversations, to managing four to five partners at once and integrating them within days. This speed and agility has allowed the company to expand its presence in the entertainment space, having integrated with key players like Apple, Comcast, Dish, and Google/YouTube, among others.
“When we were managing our API ourselves, it would be one or two months before even discussing the implementation,” says Liang. “With Intel® Services, I can onboard a new partner in just one day.” Liang also notes that the streamlined approach allows the tech team to be involved much earlier on in the process. The feedback from partners has been overwhelmingly positive, both from business development teams, who remark on the speed of the transaction, and technical teams, who appreciate being able to play with the API and ask questions from the get-go.
The features available in the partner portal are also useful for the developer community. Tools like a developer forum and Intel® Mashery™ I/O Docs allow developers to learn more about the API and get their technical questions answered without having to reach out to the Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, the company has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of inbound customer service inquiries it receives, allowing it to redeploy resources to managing partners and improving its products.
For instance, Rotten Tomatoes has easy access to reporting and analytics so it can track how people are using its API. With the Intel® Mashery™ Control Center, Rotten Tomatoes can also manage permissioning and levels of partner privileges. Developers receive 10,000 API calls per day with a key. However, if a developer has built a successful app and requires greater call limits, Rotten Tomatoes can review the app and ensure it meets branding guidelines before quickly authorizing greater call volume. “It’s a lot of fun to see the exciting and creative ways developers are using our API,” says Liang, “and we love to see that innovation happen.”
Rotten Tomatoes can also maintain a distinction between developer and partner privileges by having a separate key system for its private XML feed reserved for business partners. Managing keys is as easy as pressing a button.
Full Speed Ahead
Rotten Tomatoes has gone from handling a resourceheavy, slowgrowing private API to a full-fledged public API program that is a hit with partners and developers alike. Compared to Q1 2012, the traffic volume has shown more than 378 percent quarter-over-quarter growth as of Q2 2013. Furthermore, the ROI from the API and partner portal include heightened brand awareness and increased SEO. While it is difficult to improve on such a successful, wellmanaged program, Liang acknowledges that there is still room for progress. “The interest is definitely there within the company,” she says. “We now have someone dedicated to managing the developer forum, and we look forward to hearing from the developers on how we can improve upon the program going forward.” While Rotten Tomatoes continues its commitment to keeping partners and developers satisfied, people looking to discover what movie to watch over the weekend are, in turn, very happy customers.