Amazon-owned IMDb, the mega-database for all things entertainment, has been skirting the issue for a while, but this week let out hints that it will finally be adding a new category for original web series and one-off web videos. Veteran web series creator Casey McKinnon (Galacticast) reports on her blog with news out of Austin’s SXSW Interactive conference that IMDb founder and managing director Col Needham states that the company is in fact preparing to add the separate categories for online content.
McKinnon posed the question to Needham on a panel at the conference, and reports, “the answer is a resounding yes. In the second or third quarter of this year (anytime between April 1st and September 30th), IMDb will roll out the ability to tag a submission as either a web series or an individual (one-off) online video.”
The lack of a separate category has led a number of web series to don the “TV Series” moniker, with some even getting listed as short films. The TV Series makes sense for most episodic web series, allowing separate credits by episode or season. Some creators however, found the only way ‘in’ to the exclusive listings was through presenting their series as a film and referencing obscure film festival appearances.
McKinnon even raised this issue a year and half ago while writing for The Guardian, asking why IMDb didn’t have “more appropriate categories created for submitting a web series.” She went to say that IMDb was essentially asleep at the wheel while Wikipedia was “blasting forward” in terms of becoming the repository of web series listings.
Getting listed in the database, which has become the entertainment industry’s de-facto crediting service, espouses a degree of validity on a project and its creators. The issue has been building up steam in the web television world lately. David Nett, creator of the GOLD, a clever web series about a tabletop RPG gaming team, recently vented his frustrations about the inconsistent listing policy at IMDb. “No listing on IMDb is nearly tantamount to not appearing on Google, he wrote. “It’s not that you don’t exist without it, but without it you exist far less.”
Nett unsuccessfully tried to add his series to the database only to receive a rejection notice citing it did not meet the site’s admission standards. What are these murky standards? “Substantial, verifiable viewership” was on list, which boils down to mean view counts. Not only will IMDb not say what that view count threshold is, but it’s oddly a standard that isn’t held for the million-plus films in the directory.
With the Angels creator Mary Feuer expressed a similar story when trying to get her Strike.TV-released series admitted. What struck her in particular was the lengthy amount of time the company deveotes to rejecting an entry, often sending multiple reasons for rejection. The view count rejection, she notes, only looked at the trailer on YouTube and didn’t consider the handful of other sites—Strike.TV, Joost and KoldCast TV—that the show was on.
Another requirement according to IMDb is coverage by “significant mainstream press,” which according to Nett, “the main sources of editorial for the burgeoning web television movement – Tilzy.TV, NewTeeVee, and Tubefilter – are not yet considered by IMDb to be significant mainstream press, largely because those news outlets are online-only.” Hmm. Did the Seattle Post Intelligencer just lose its ‘mainstream’ status by going online-only?
A third reason often cited is that the series must be “notable enough to have its own Wikipedia page.” This appears to be a passing of the buck to the anonymous admins over at the community knowledge dump.
The challenge still exists of course, as to how to filter content so that the database doesn’t erode into a useless repository of vanity. IMDb needs to completely redesign its vetting system, perhaps bringing in third parties like TubeMogul to verify viewership and distribution or even the editorial coverage of, dare we say, Tubefilter. We like to think we’re pretty good at sorting out what a web series and what’s not.