Netflix and Hyper-categorisation: What Can We Learn

March 18th, 2014 in Zeal News 3 minute read

Are you struggling to decide what to watch tonight? Perhaps you are looking for a ‘Wacky Film’, ‘Films Featuring a Strong Female Lead’ or maybe you’re in the mood for ‘Romantic Crime Movies Based on Classic Literature’ or something a bit more light hearted like a ‘Goofy Dance Musical’.

These are just some of the thousands of unique micro-genres created by Netflix to categorise their online video content.

With so much content to choose from online it can be overwhelming as a user when you are trying to decide what to watch. Netflix wanted to create specific personal recommendations for all of their millions of subscribers. To do this they first needed to categorise all of their content.

They began this huge task of analysing and tagging their entire library of video content by first hiring people to go through the content and tag it. It is reported that the people hired by Netflix were given a 36 page training manual which explained in detail what they should look at when tagging such as rating the ending, tagging the plot, locations and characters job roles. These tags were internally known as alt-genres and the tagging team watched hours and hours of content tagging them with metadata and capturing the contents attributes.

Netflix then created an algorithm, which looked at what users were watching and searching for. This algorithm combined with the human element provided by the tagging team enabled them to analyse and tag their entire library and create a huge amount of data.

The algorithm converted the tags and metadata into very precise genres. This hyper-categorisation of genres is a key part of Netflix’s strategy of attracting new subscribers and keeping existing ones. As a subscriber you get a tailored row at the top of your page of recommendations based on what you have been watching. This personal element is in some ways similar to the Facebook newsfeed, Netflix are using their data to highlight video content that they think you’ll like.

Todd Yellin, Vice President of Product at Netflix said, “My first goal was: tear apart content!” By examining each piece of content on the site Netflix have been able to create a database like no other. With over 30 million users worldwide Netflix have created precise, hyper-categories to help users find the content that they want to watch.

Yellin went on to say, “We wanted to highlight our personalisation because we pride ourselves on putting the right title in front of the right person at the right time.” Now this sounds very familiar. The Zero Moment of Truth is based on putting the right content in front of the consumer at the right moment in the buying cycle.

The tags combined with millions of Netflix users viewing habits meant the company could ‘deconstruct’ Hollywood and create a huge library of data on what people want to watch. Now that they have begun producing their own content like ‘House of Cards’ Netflix can use this mass of data to explore what people want to watch. They don’t need to guess what people will like they can use their data when deciding what content to produce.

Netflix’s unique way of describing films and TV programs may seem extreme and overly detailed but the main aim behind everything is to help the user find what they are looking for. This seemingly obvious aim should be the focus for all content. If you organise and tag your content it creates a path for users to follow without getting lost along the way or giving up and leaving to go somewhere else. Tagging all of your content from blog posts to web pages makes it easy to find. Using tools such as Google Analytics you can target content to your users. By examining user behaviour much like Netflix have done you can see what content people are reading on your site and what content they are navigating away from because it doesn’t interest them.

Tagging content makes it visible, here at Zeal we can help you ensure your website content is correctly tagged and fully optimised for the user. Using categories in your blog and website makes it easy for users to navigate your content and find the right content that they need. If you want to find out more about tagging your content please get in touch.

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