“IMDb asked us to discontinue to operate our service under the domain imdbpromo.com,” a manager of the website, who identified himself as Jerry Trojan, wrote in an email. “This is very sad for us as we’ve worked very hard to establish this site.”
IMDb, which is owned by Amazon.com, said it has no affiliation whatsoever with companies that make “dubious” claims about boosting STARmeter scores and said it implements measures to thwart any attempts to game the rankings.
IMDbPromo.com, registered to someone with a Vancouver mailing address, had claimed it could “literally publish 10,000 articles in just a few days if you want us to” to raise STARmeter scores — just one of dozens of sketchy Internet outfits that have made a cottage industry out of trying to alter search-engine results and other indexes.
The shutdown of IMDbPromo.com comes after The Herald de Paris published an article this week about the experience of actress-director-producer Anna Wilding, who alleged that third-party companies including IMDbPromo.com have “blackmailed” IMDbPro users by lowering actors’ rankings in the database if they don’t pay for their services.
According to Wilding, a New Zealand native whose IMDb profile lists seven TV and film acting credits, her STARmeter ranking on IMDbPro fell from 90,000 on March 9 to below 5 million on March 10 — the lower the number, the better the ranking (e.g., STARmeter’s No. 1 spot is currently occupied by Jared Leto). She believes the drop was the handiwork of IMDbPromo.com and others.
But IMDbPromo.com said Wilding was never a customer. (She is, she says, a subscriber to IMDb’s own IMDbPro service.) Star Boost Media, another company cited by Wilding that advertises services to increase STARmeter rankings, also said she has never used its service. Both services disclaimed any affiliation with IMDb.
IMDb, in a statement, said it periodically updates the algorithms that power STARmeter to ensure it accurately reflects an individual’s relative popularity.
“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 company said in a statement. “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.”
IMDb continued, “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.”
Indeed, according to Star Boost Media, the changes IMDb made last year to STARmeter have “made the ability to manipulate rankings as before virtually impossible. The only way to improve rankings by any means now is by normal, organic methods. Star Boost Media uses social media to help bring visitors from around the world to view IMDb pages.” But according to its website, Star Boost Media says its “proprietary software” can deliver 10,000-20,000 unique visits in 30 days from dedicated servers to a user’s IMDb profile page — which certainly doesn’t sound organic. (UPDATE: After this article was published, Star Boost Media changed that section of its website to remove that info.)
Separately, IMDb this week announced the addition of new features for casting directors and actors seeking parts, available as part of the IMDbPro subscription. Fees for the service will rise from $129.95 to $149.99 per year, while the monthly option will go from $15.95 to $19.99.