I started visiting the IMDb site way back in the day, even before they were bought by Amazon.com. Back then, IMDb was a site for film lovers and film scholars, an encyclopedic collection of information and opinions about film (and, later, television).
However, once Amazon.com purchased IMDb they have slowly but inexorably worked to “monetize” the traffic on the site. They added a fee-service called IMDb Pro, which provides deeper and newer information, and they have also blithely accepted saturation advertising for any and every piece of crap excreted by Hollywood, as long as the budgets were big enough.
For example, the screen shot to the right is of the home page today, and as you can see it is *plastered* with advertising for and editorial references to Disney’s “Prince of Persia”. By all accounts, this film sucks mightily, and will quickly take its place in the pantheon of mass-produced, mass-marketed, money-grubbing, mediocre, mainstream, meaningless films, and no self-respecting site for film fans would feature it so prominently.
Seriously, what would you think if you visited the Architectural Digest site, and found the front page emblazoned with a half-dozen ads for mobile homes, or if you visited the Bon Appétit site and found they were garishly sponsored by McDonald’s, touting the return of the McRib, for a limited time?
You’d think that they had sold out, wouldn’t you? But that doesn’t stop IMDb from whoring itself out to the highest advertising bidder. You see, IMDb is no longer run by or for film buffs. It’s run by Amazon.com as a vehicle to sell you entertainment, or to sell advertising to companies that want to sell you entertainment. IMDb has dropped all pretense of being an arbiter of or commenter on the quality of the films on its site and/or in general. Oh, it still lets members post reviews and ratings, and links to external reviews, but there are apparently no quality barriers to the films they allow to be advertised and prominently featured on their site.
In the interest of fairness, I will stipulate that IMDb is still a great source of information, and if you can block or ignore the advertising, it can still be a valuable resource. But it’s become like WalMart – a soul-less emporium that has a vast selection but has no sense of quality or discrimination about their offerings, other than low-prices. I sometimes go to WalMart, when I have to, but it is a joyless, draining chore.
And that’s exactly what IMDb has become to me – the WalMart of film information. I go to IMDb for specific reasons – to look up an actor or actress, to find the details of a particular TV show episode, etc, and then leave immediately. But what I don’t do is browse IMDb as entertainment, like I used to. Back in the day I could wander the virtual halls of IMDb, coming across tidbits, discovering new films I might like, getting information about a particular film’s history or production, etc. It was an enjoyable place to mingle digitally with like-minded film buffs.
Sadly, this is no longer the case, at least not for me. The incessant pop-ups and blinking+pulsing advertisements on every page, the editorial highlighting of films whose only “quality” is a big advertising budget, and the distinct lack of discriminating, discerning editorial slant when it comes to the world of film. So IMDb still gets some clicks from me, but now that I have no respect for the site, I have even less respect for anything they allow to be advertised, so those clicks are not “monetized” in any way.
I doubt I’m the only person who has gone through this disillusionment with IMDb, and they have to be feeling it. Or am I misjudging the number of non-discriminating, non-discerning filmgoers who will visit the site, become enthralled by the flashing and pulsing advertisements for a piece of crap, and then go spend money on a ticket for it?
Sadly, I think I am, and I think that IMDb represents a crystal-clear microcosm of what is wrong with film today – the soulless pursuit of money by bean-counters, who see sheep as their customers of choice.