Fact Checking Amazon’s Not-so-Subtle Influence on IMDb

amazon-logo3Amazon gets a lot of flack for making many people unhappy, but not all of it is deserved.

Yesterday a blogger criticized Amazon for, well, spamming IMDb with adverts for the latest Hobbit movie.

Had Kieth Bradnam's allegations born out, they would have been a damning indictment of Amazon. But it turns out that at least some of Bradnam's evidence doesn't stand up to scrutiny. While I looked into this story with the intention of slamming Amazon, I have come to the conclusion that Bradnam has blown the story way out of proportion.

Bradnam has just two allegations, and I will address them in order.

One

To start, he slams Amazon for splashing the IMDb homepage with a distracting advert for the latest Hobbit movie. He posts a current screenshot, and compares it to one from a year ago. Here are the screenshots:

Bradnam claims the one on the left is from a year ago, but I checked the metadata, and the screenshot was actually taken yesterday. The date is in the title, in fact.

The page does show an older site layout, so I would bet that Bradnam took the screenshot at the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

As you may know, the Internet Archive is intent on archiving the web. They maintain a huge database of websites scanned years ago. This includes IMDb, where the front page was archived pretty much every day going back for nearly a decade.

Here are a few screenshots I took for scans from 2012, 2013, and 2014:

As you can see, the last screenshot doesn't have the splashy ad covering the top and sides, but the first two screenshots, which are from 2012 and 2013, do.

To reiterate, Bradnam slammed Amazon for adding a messy advert in the past year.

Clearly that is not true.

That ad unit has been in place since at least 2012. I can't tell you why the earlier screenshots show the current advert, or why the 2014 screenshot does not, but as you can see for yourself the ad unit is there.

Two

Bradnam's other allegation is that Amazon smothered the listing page for the latest Hobbit movie with a honking huge advert. He posted this, and I see it as well:

imdb

That is pretty bad. It's an example of why I use an ad blocker, and it's actually worse than you can see. After you scroll down, there's an advert on the right which also pitches the movie.

I can't dispute that the advert is ugly, but let me add some context.

The above advert is bad, but Amazon isn't ruining all of the pages on IMDb with this type of advert. For example, search for the last Hobbit movie and you'll find a page like this:

imdb

As you can see there are a couple adverts, but they are tolerable.

Conclusion

to put it simply, folks, Amazon has had adverts on IMDb for years. They have lately added messy adverts on a select few pages, but they have not added them across the entire site.

If you wish to bash Amazon, go ahead. I was all set to do so, but after I checked the facts I had to dial the outrage back a couple clicks. I just don't see this as quite a huge story that Bradnam made it out to be, so find myself lacking in fury.

And as for the question Bradnam asked at the end of his post:

At what point should we become concerned by Amazon influencing the IMDb ratings of movies that they would rather see portrayed in a more positive light in order to sell content from Amazon.com?

It's worth noting that he doesn't actually give as any reason to be concerned, but I will say that I'm not worried.

I will be concerned about Amazon influencing the IMDb ratings the day after they start manipulating ratings on Amazon.com. But since I lack any evidence that Amazon has done either, I am not worried.

About Nate Hoffelder (11579 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

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