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Requiem For a Hit List

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire April 25, 2012 at 12:32PM

The loss of a popular feature at the Internet Movie Database and what it means for film critics.
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If you visit the Internet Movie Database as frequently as I do, you've probably noticed a few changes to the home page in the last couple of days (if you visit the Internet Movie Database as frequently as I do, you probably also want to consider getting more regular exercise). The biggest change is the loss of IMDb's "Hit List," their daily roundup of interesting links from around the web. It's a loss that's going to be felt as much by film writers as film lovers.

Expertly curated by the IMDb's staff, the Hit List was an online rarity: the closet thing the movie interwebs had to a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. As a writer, if you made it onto the Hit List, you knew you were doing something right. Unlike other link roundups that focus primarily on news or gimmicky features, Hit List was devoted to intelligent film criticism. Unlike other link roundups that stick to well-trafficked sites, Hit List often recommended essays from obscure sources far from the beaten path. It was a true meritocracy; reader submissions were welcomed and frequently taken and the cream always rose to the top. 

IMDb's sizable audience meant a Hit List link was worth a lot more than an ego stroke, too: it also meant huge amounts of traffic. For writers who preferred to seriously explore the world of cinema instead of link baiting with a list of, say, the Top Ten Celebrity Pet Owners, the Hit List was an invaluable resource.  Now, adventurous critics will need to find new ways to reach new readers.

In a statement on the Hit List Submission Page, IMDb said that "Hit List was created years ago, before we had our current news system or the various social media as tools for sharing stories posted by you with the rest of our users. Now, however, times have changed, and our focus will be to share your links and suggestions from this board with our users via our Facebook and Twitter accounts." That's certainly understandable -- social media is a great traffic driver for writers. If IMDb used its Facebook and Twitter pages to recommend reading to its thousands of followers, that would be a fine replacement for the Hit List. So far, though, the site doesn't really do that. Most of the items IMDb shares on Twitter and Facebook are casting scoops, photos, and trivia; nothing like the substantive articles that you'd find on the Hit List. Maybe this will change in the future. I certainly hope it does.

There are other worthwhile online link lists. Ray Pride does a fine job of aggregating interesting work at Movie City News, and Rotten Tomatoes does their own (less literate) version on their homepage. The Hit List wasn't the only one doing what it did. It was just the best, which is why it will be missed.


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