The secrets behind how Netflix recommends what to watch


1. Netflix manipulates the thumbnail illustrations on the navigation page to try to get you.

“If you don’t grab a member’s attention within 90 seconds, that member will likely lose interest,” writes Nick Nelson of Netflix. “Users spent an average of 1.8 seconds considering each title that was presented to them,” he adds.

Do you think people who surf spend 1.8 seconds reading the title and thinking about the show or movie? No. While we’re on Netflix, 82 percent of our focus is on the miniature illustrations for each movie or show. “We were surprised by the impact an image had,” writes Nelson, “and how little time we had to capture their interest.”

So they started trying to please you with an image chosen to match what all the data they collect about you says it might appeal to your particular interests. They found that more than three faces per image push us away, and that those faces must push our emotional buttons hard and fast. “Human beings are programmed to respond to faces,” Nelson writes. “Faces with complex emotions outperform stoic or benign expressions.” For action movies or children’s entertainment, the villains outweigh while the nice faces finish last. But it goes beyond that – you may not be seeing the same thumbnail your neighbor sees. For viewers who like comedies, Goodwill huntThe Netflix page usually represents Robin Williams. Romance fans can see Minnie Driver making out with Matt Damon instead. Comedy fans see children in Strange things disguised as Ghostbusters; Fans of crime drama see the image of a policeman in a black fog.

Do you feel seen? Or spied on?

2. But it turns out that those recommendations are far from perfect.

On the one hand, 41 percent of Netflix users watch without paying, they are using a friend or relative’s account. That means Netflix is ​​collecting data from multiple viewers in a group, not from each individual, which no one likes.

Writer and podcaster Stacia L. Brown He was particularly bummed in 2018 because his Netflix recommendations kept showing their black faces, like Leonard Ouzts and Blaire Brooks for the movie. As father. “This movie is starring Kristen Bell / Kelsey Grammer,” he says, “and these actors had maybe 10 cumulative minutes of screen time, 20 lines between them, tops.” In fact, the Netflix algorithm should have no idea of ​​Brown’s race, gender, ethnicity, or age – yours or anyone else’s. But sometimes he behaves as if he did: “a marketing stunt”, Brown tweeted.

Do you feel seen? Or stereotyped?

3. Some say Netflix recommendations (and maybe even programming) are increasingly becoming internet click bait.

In August, Boardtech expert Dan Kois He skewered the Netflix recommendation images and headlines like “clickbait: entice someone to click and then deliver something other than what the headline made them want.” He mocks his personalized Netflix page for featuring half-naked beauties in sexy poses that he claims misrepresent the shows: a woman in a bikini for Who Killed Sara?; shirtless guys for What’s underneath and Lucifer; a woman with an expression of orgasmic glow to Sex / Life; a woman wearing nothing but underwear and $ 20 bills for Stole – a show that Kois calls even more generic and clickbaity than a previous Netflix show, Money robbery.

On the other hand, what some call clickbait, others call “hits”. Board (and many others) took the latest Netflix show, actually called Clickbait: “He advertises himself as potentially dishonest and exploitative and challenges you to click anyway.” And what was the most watched Netflix show the week it debuted? You guessed it. As expert Haley Soen wrote, Netflix’s “new ‘goofy’ thriller Clickbait it’s kind of awful, but everyone’s obsessed with it. ”Critics called it“ disastrous, ”but Rotten Tomatoes audiences rated it 89 percent.

Do you feel seen? Or with bait?

4. Those rows of shows by genre that Netflix offers you are becoming more and more specific.

On your personal Netflix page, the algorithm’s best guess as to what you’ll like to go in the row at the top, with the most recommended titles on the left, unless you choose Arabic or Hebrew as your language, in which case they will go on the right. on the left.

It used to be that those genre categories felt pretty generic: comedies, dramas, indies. But have you taken a closer look at your categories lately? They are absolutely baroque phrases, generated by AI to make you feel understood or respected. But do they do it? Here are some of my favorites:

  • Foreign Satanic Stories of the 1980s
  • Post-apocalyptic comedies about friendship
  • Cult Evil Kid Horror Movies
  • Period pieces of father and son from the deep sea based on real life set in the Middle East for children
  • Assassination Bounty-Hunter secret society dramas based on books set in Europe about fame for ages 8-10

Do you feel seen? Or supervised?

How to take control of what Netflix serves you

As Netflix tries to lure you in with photos, guesses, and even clickbait, you can fight back! This is what can help move the algorithm on Netflix to maybe really understand it better and deliver shows and movies that you really enjoy.

Tell Netflix your real preferences

Don’t you like what you see? Inform Netflix of your preferences. When you sign up, please rate some movies and shows that you like; this will change the results of your algorithm. Go to your Netflix homepage, find a title you like – Like Grace and Frankie – hover over your image and click “+” to add it to your My List favorites page, and click thumb up or thumb down icons to feed the algorithm you want.

Find lists of genres that you really like

One way is to test these sites, http://ogres-crypt.com/public/NetFlix-Streaming-Genres2.html or https://www.whats-on-netflix.com/library/categories/ which list various genres and their Netflix codes. Would you like to buy Tearjerkers? Just locate your code in the genre list (6384), log into Netflix, and look for the URL (universal resource locator, which stands for website address) at the top. Does it look like this: https://www.netflix.com/browse/.

To add a new genre list, add “gender/”Plus the Netflix code for the genre you like the most. I was about to go to Campy Zombie Movies (1515), but after scrolling through the 45 genres that start with the word “cerebral”, I went to Cerebral Biographical Movies and typed their code (4518), so the url said https://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/4518. Presto, Helen Mirren appeared in The Queen (last day to watch on Netflix: September 30), plus a good list of other titles to scratch that intellectual itch.

And then I thought better of it. Wouldn’t you rather watch Hidden Gem Fight-the-System movies (Follow, continue, gas country) or classic films of attraction of opposites to feel good (Never sunday, white Christmas) or cold whiskers (Breaking bad, Sons of Anarchy, True Grit, Poirot, Super Mario Brothers Super Show)?

But Netflix only helps those who benefit from its riches and can decide for themselves. So take control!

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