TechnologyNetflix may finally let actual humans pick which titles you see, instead of an algorithm
The way Netflix recommends shows and movies might surprise you
It's practically impossible to keep up with the sheer volume of new titles that hit Netflix every single month. From original programming to a revolving door of popular TV shows and movies, Netflix in September alone will introduce nearly 100 new titles for subscribers. And when you add that to an already sizable library of content, figuring out to watch can sometimes be a bit daunting. Given the absolute avalanche of content Netflix houses, many subscribers simply rely upon the streaming giant’s recommendation algorithm to determine what programs to watch next. And from my personal experience, the algorithm tends to be spot-on more often than it isn’t.
Netflix has racked up tens of millions of subscribers around the world because of how easy the service is to use and for the volume of content it puts right at your fingertips. It’s so easy to fall down a binge-watch rabbit hole and spend hours on the couch flying through one episode of your favorite show after another — as well as plenty of shows and films you maybe hadn’t ever heard of before and couldn’t have watched otherwise.
That very strength, of an abundance of content, is unfortunately also something of a drawback, since the machine-driven recommendation engine that drives your Netflix experience and personalizes the titles that each person is presented with is just that. It’s a computer-led process, leaving some users often feeling starved of something new to enjoy and feeling like there’s a ton of content available but nothing they want to watch.
'Norsemen' producer gamed Netflix's algorithm with Facebook ads
When you open up Netflix, you'll see a splashy promotion for one of its shows or movies. For me right now, it's highlighting the terrific GLOW,the third season of which arrived Friday, and there are other shows showcased alongside it such as in the Trending Now section. That's vital real estate, as what Netflix promotes there can drive a ton of viewership. It's a bit of a vicious circle, as Netflix is more willing than in the pastto cancel shows that perhaps don't hook enough viewers, yet it decides what to showcase in the so-called recommendation carousel.
Netflix has decided that a little human curation might help to solve that problem. That leads us to Collections, a new feature Netflix is testing on iOS devices that curates recommendations from the streamer’s creative teams into more editorially-grouped lists, behind the more basic “Action,” “Crime,” and “Docuseries” kinds of groupings that exist within the app now.
These new human-picked sortings have titles like “Let’s Keep It Light” and “Oddballs & Outcasts,” and you can also “follow” (subscribe) to a particular collection you’re interested in. The tweet above shows how the feature looks if you’re not lucky enough to be part of the subset of users who’re getting to test this at the moment.
Netflix test brings human-curated 'Collections' to streaming
Netflix leans on algorithms for virtually all of its show suggestions, but it's trying something radical: curation from real, honest-to-goodness humans. The service is testing expert-crafted Collections that, much like music playlists, offer selections based around certain themes. You can check out a colleciton of light-hearted fare if you're looking for relief from a stressful week, or go for prizewinning titles if you only want critically-praised pieces. The company is only testing the feature in its iOS app so far, and stressed that there's no guarantee Collections will be widely available.
“We’re always looking for new ways to connect our fans with titles we think they’ll love, so we’re testing out a new way to curate Netflix titles into collections on the Netflix iOS app,” a Netflix spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Our tests generally vary in how long they run for and in which countries they run in, and they may or may not become permanent features on our service.”
If Netflix does decide to roll this out wider and make it an official part of the app eventually, it would represent a pretty interesting complement to the algorithmically-sorted home screens that have been such a staple of the Netflix experience for years now. The streamer definitely needs to keep trying experiments like this and not rest on its laurels, with so many rivals now coming into the space to grab their share of the market Netflix has dominated for so long.
Amazon's search could push customers toward in-house products.
Amazon reportedly tweaked its product-search algorithm to favor products that are more profitable to the company. People who worked on the algorithm say the change could give Amazon's own brands a boost, The Wall Street Journal reports. If Amazon is intentionally using search to promote its own goods, it will likely draw more criticism from antitrust regulators. WSJ sources said the algorithm was modified late last year, and that the unpublicized change was contested internally. The move supposedly pitted Amazon's Seattle-based retail business and its Palo Alto, California-based search team (referred to as A9) against each other.
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