Reports Claim IMDBPro's Starmeter Rankings Are Rigged

7:00 AM PST 03/14/2014 by Alex Ben Block
Anna Wilding
Anna Wilding says her Starmeter ranking dropped after getting invovled with IMDBPromo.

UPDATED: One service that promised to boost an actor’s Starmeter ranking has shut down this week, but there are a number of similar third party sites still in operation.

Amazon.com’s IMDBPro this week raised rates for its movie, TV production database by 15 percent to around $150 a year (for existing subscribers). It also launched a new service billed as a high-tech way for casting directors to find actors for movies and TV – in part using a proprietary ratings system called Starmeter.

Even as the new service dubbed Pro Casting was being introduced, however, reports surfaced on several websites that the Starmeter ratings can and are being manipulated by third party promoters, if not by Amazon and IMDBPro themselves.

The website of one of those third party services, IMDBPromo, which promised to improve your Starmeter score for payments ranging from a couple hundred dollars to more than a thousand dollars, went dark Wednesday after it was specifically named in an article that appeared on the web site Herald de Paris. A company source for IMDBPromo said it shut down at the request of IMDB.

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 The Herald de Paris, with offices in Los Angeles and Paris, declared in a headline Tuesday that “Starmeter (was) involved in meter rigging.”
 
The article included the story of Anna Wilding, an actress, writer and producer from New Zealand who now lives in L.A. and New York. Wilding, who produced, wrote, directed and narrated the 2006 documentary Buddha Wild: Monk In A Hut, became aware of these third-party  sites last year. Anna did a Google search to find out why it had dropped from 35000 to five million. Up came a page for IMDBPROMO stating the many actors would be panicking becauase their IMDBPro score had dropped by millions in some instances, and that for a fee they would fix it. By comparison Brad Pitt has a 13 as of Thursday. 

IMDBPromo is independently owned and not an affiliate of Amazon or IMDB or IMDBPro. IMDBPromo wanted $999 to help her. She never signed up. 

These services claim that by generating interest on social media and other methods they can increase the number of page views on a persons IMDBPro profile, which will improve the Starmeter score. 

James Sved, publisher of the Herald de Paris, told THR that his computer sleuths were able to trace the source of the Starmeter ratings directly to the Amazon computer servers. He said that until about a year ago a data company had processed the ratings for IMDBPro, and they had come from IMDB servers, but since then it has been done in-house at Amazon.

On its website, IMDBPro says that Starmeter is designed to show the level of public awareness and interest in a person or company based on how often a profile is viewed on the site. “IMDbPro uses proprietary algorithms that take into account several measures of popularity for people, titles and companies,” the company explains on its website. “The primary measure is who and what people are looking at on IMDb.”

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Sved and Wilding believe the results are being manipulated: “They’re not using objective algorithm to make these decisions,” says Ved. “They are ultimately directing the information to get certain results.”

“Starmeter,” says Wilding, “is an arbitrary and subjective system that damages all in the film business - cast and crew, producers, directors - everyone.”

When asked about these charges, IMDB declined to address specific points but instead issued a statement. Here is the complete text: “For the past 12 years IMDbPRo's STARmeter has reliably ranked every person listed on IMDb using a mechanism based on the daily behavior of millions of users visiting our sites.  The system includes safeguards to detect and neutralize attempts to influence and skew STARmeter, and is periodically updated and enhanced in order to provide an accurate representation of a person’s popularity and ensure that the rankings reflect our audience’s genuine interest. We are aware of the existence of services making dubious claims about STARmeter and purporting to affect rankings in exchange for money. None of these entities are affiliated with IMDb in any way, and we aggressively work to protect the effectiveness of the system via technical and legal means.”

The demise of IMDBPromo is a step in that direction but there are many other third party web marketers offering similar services still in operation. They include Trafficseo, which offers to “boost your exposure in IMDB” for about $20 to $100 per month, or to give it a “MegaBoost” of at least 100,000 page views for about $300 a month.

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There is also karmalicity.com, starboostmedia.com and DirectImagePR, among others.

Social media has been full of chatter about all the activity around IMDBPro this week including complaints about the price increase and questions about the veracity of ratings that can be impacted by buying hits.

On Wednesday, someone posted in the comments section on the Herald de Paris site what they claim is computer code that would allow someone to alter their IMDBPro profile. As of late Thursday, Ved and Wilding said there has been no request from IMDB to take it down.

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