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The Value of IMDB's Data

posted Oct 24, 2011, 2:41 AM by Jack Marrows
'Data is the next intel inside' refers to data being more valuable than proprietary software licenses and the need for businesses to establish a data strategy. Many web applications offering low functionality, achieve great success through appropriately harvesting and managing data. Today I am going to analyze the role data management has played in the success of IMDB.com (Internet Movie Database).

IMDB hosts data about movies, actors, fictional characters, television episodes and video games. The company operates as a subsidiary of Amazon.com after a deal was struck in 1998. This allowed Amazon to advertise on the site and ensured the data would remain available to the army of volunteers who contributed to the site’s content (Wikipedia, 2010).

Data is submitted by public contributors, verified by paid managers and published on the site (Wikipedia, 2010). This data is then enriched through user interactions such as ratings, reviews and comments. Interestingly, unlike Facebook’s business model IMDB do not take ownership of the data users upload (IMDB, 2010). This may help to manifest trust and loyalty amongst its users.

Data hosted by IMDB has been accumulated since 1990 (IMDB.com, 2010) and is fundamental to the company’s revenue. The quantity of data hosted would be very expensive and time consuming to recreate which has secured the organization as a dominant player in the industry.

IMDB content can be used to power movie, television or celebrity projects and is marketed as authoritative and accurate information (IMDB, 2010). This data is sold as a subscription at $15000 per year as of March 1, 2010. Clatworthy (2010) suggests this will lead to no free application programming interfaces(APIs) being publicly available. Lack of APIs may have a walled garden effect and mean data is not extended beyond the limitations of IMDB’s functionality and data harvesting capabilities. In this linked article O’Reilly has outlined some applications an IMDB API could enable (O’Reilly, 2006).

In summary, IMDB illustrates how valuable data is however, O’reilly (2005) states
“we expect the rise of proprietary databases to result in a Free Data movement”
and this is already on the horizon with omdb.org(Open Movie Database) gaining momentum. If IMDB wants to stay competitive they may need to freely share their databases otherwise an open data solution may reel in its dominance.


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