Reading Response for “How Netflix is Turning Its Viewers Into Puppets”

I found this article—“How Netflix is Turning Its Viewers Into Puppets”—fascinating, because I had no idea that so many factors were being analyzed each time a viewer logged in and watched something (everything from when a viewer pressed pause to when they started to tune out as the credits rolled). I knew, from my own experience with Netflix, that each time I watched a program, movie, or documentary, I would be provided with suggestions of similar things to watch (“because you watched this movie with a ‘strong female lead’ you may like these other female-led movies”). I have to say that for me, personally, I’ve never taken Netflix up on its recommendations (despite the claim in the article that 75% of its subscribers are influenced by what Netflix suggests they will like. I guess I’m just in the 25% that don’t). I usually log on either knowing exactly what I want to watch already, or, if I don’t, I’ll just search by the genre I’m interested in.

When it comes to recommendations, I am far more likely to watch something an actual human thinks I’ll enjoy rather than what Netflix thinks I will. Additionally, I find it interesting that Netflix pays so much attention to trying to replicate what viewers have already enjoyed; surely, having binged on House of Cards, for example, viewers will want the next thing they watch to be a little different? (If not completely different.) Speaking from my own experience, I know that having just watched say, a horror movie, I will probably want the next thing I view to be decidedly lighter.

At the end of the day Netflix has no real way of calculating what will be a hit with its viewers and what won’t. Again, going from personal experience, I really enjoyed the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black and the recent 10-episode documentary Making a Murderer, but House of Cards just didn’t do it for me. Despite the political drama getting rave reviews from both friends and family, it just didn’t hook me in like I hoped it would. I know people who watched and enjoyed all three of the above; some who only liked one or two; and some who didn’t enjoy any of them…and their taste in other programs/movies appears to be completely uncorrelated to which of these three they enjoyed, or didn’t.

All this is to ask the question: can Netflix really know what we’ll enjoy, despite all its efforts to track our viewing habits? When I think about my own likes and dislikes when it comes to watching something, there is often an intangible quality that I can’t quite pinpoint that determines whether I enjoy something or not, and if I can’t determine what this is, how could Netflix possibly know?

One Reply to “Reading Response for “How Netflix is Turning Its Viewers Into Puppets””

  1. The thing about data is that it never really has to be used to predict a particular individual’s taste, just the tastes of the collective, or the subgroup which is being targeted.

Leave a Reply