Thursday, 7 July 2011

IMDB and Empire Magazine, The Internet vs Paper

“The internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow”

The speed the internet moves at can be proven using this quote. Bill Gates, multi-billionare CEO of Microsoft said this in 2005, and already, it could be seen as outdated, as many would argue the global village now longer exists in an abstract 'tomorrow', and is instead here, and internet has been at the centre of that for some time.

Whether it be current affairs, television, every hobby in the world, information is stepping from print, onto the internet. Just about every newspaper in Britain has an online version, containing the best stories, sometimes going as far as to have online-exclusive stories that are more likely to interest an online reader than someone holding the paper in front of them. The world of film is no exception to this. People all over the world want up to date information on the upcoming releases, and the quickest way to keep your information fresh and constantly updated is on the internet.

With over seventeen million members, as well as approximately fifty million guest users, the Internet Movie Database ( is the most visited movie website on the internet. It's main use is to inform visitors of a film's release details, and cast and crew lists.

Empire magazine is Britain's most popular movie magazine, released monthly since 1989, presents itself with a comedic edge, not taking itself seriously, and encouraging readers to write in should they disagree with anything said.

I have chosen to use these two movie resources to compare print an online journalism, analysing them on their delivery of information; the speed the information is delivered; input from the reader; accessibility; price to access the information; and use of advertising, amongst other factors.

In 1989, Barry McIlheney, who was previously editor for 'Smash Hits', became launch editor for Empire Magazine. The magazine fast became Britain's best-selling movie magazine, producing special issues devoted to certain film, a 'Top 500' film countdown, recently an issue guest-edited by Stephen Spielberg, and every year, the magazine hosts the 'Empire Awards'.
The style of the magazine is very light-hearted. The writing is very witty, based more on comment than information. The main focus is on new releases, or upcoming releases which are updated monthly. There are also a number of special features. Each issue contains a 'Classic Scene', where the transcript to a great moment in film is printed, as well as a piece entitled 'Masterpieces', a two page essay about a great movie, which have ranged between 'On The Waterfront' to 'Die Hard'.

Empire are often lauded for their involvement with the readers. As well as a letters page, readers can enter competitions, are invited to write their own reviews, write questions to be asked to upcoming interviewees, and choosing their favourite films and directors for various polls.
On a few occasions, special issues are released. A 'Star Wars' one was released in July of 2007, containing reviews of every film, interviews with cast and with George Lucas and lots of trivia. As already mentioned, Stephen Spielberg guest-edited May 2009's edition to celebrate the magazine's 20th anniversary, where he wrote about all his films and interviewed the stars of those films. Each issue offers something new, and the reader can take great enjoyment reading its often 150 or more pages.

On October 17, 1990, only just over a year after 'Empire' began, Col Needham posted a collection of Unix shell scripts online that could search through four lists he and two fellow engineers, Andy Kreig and Dave Knight, had compiled (actors, actresses, directors and films/televisions shows) thus creating the world's first, and arguably best, online film resource. At first it was rather methodically called "rec.arts.movies movie database", but by 1996, as the internet, and itself, was constantly gaining popularity, the website constantly expanding to incorporate different categories of film-makers, plot summaries, full cast and crew lists and trivia, the name was changed to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB).

Although people who work for IMDB add new titles and cast and crew, virtually all other information is supplied by the general public. The only rule for adding to the site is that you must be a member, and anything you add will be checked by a member of staff before being added for everyone to see. Members are invited to at plot summaries, full plot synopses, pieces of trivia, or any 'goof' one may have noticed, like a microphone in shot, or, for example, a car from the 1960s appearing in a film set in the 1940s.

In September 2008, a feature called 'instant viewing' was added to the site, allowing people to view films made by independent film-makers, but as of yet, due to licensing restrictions, this service is only available in the USA.

Empire and IMDB are both invaluable resources for film fans, but one may be more invaluable than the other, depending on what one is looking for. Because Empire is written by professionals, you can trust their judgement on films, as they have has a lot of practice, but then again, there is the chance that your opinions could differ to theirs, whereas on IMDB, although the individual reviews may not be as well-written, the voted rating will be a good estimate as to how good the film is. This is because, unlike Empire Magazine that base their star rating on one person's view, IMDB, actually use a fairly complex technique to rate and rank films, pictured and explained below.

w= ____________

In the diagram, W is the whole overall rating, 'R' is the rating between one and ten given by visitors, 'v' is the number of votes the movie has received, 'C' is the mean vote across the whole report, and 'm' is the minimum votes required to appear in the IMDB top 250. This allows the viewer to see a much more accurate rating than even the best critic can give.

Of course, because IMDB is on the internet, the speed at which it can deliver information is much higher than that of Empire Magazine (it is worth mentioning that, along with newspapers, Empire has realised this and now have a website acting as an online magazine and film resource). IMDB's homepage shows up-to-date movie and television news, a constantly updated top 5 movies in cinemas and top 5 DVD sales, as well as a 'quote of the day' and some pieces of movie trivia. This is kept constantly updated, and should anything very important happen, like the death of a film star, this will appear in a large box on the front page. Their ability to show multimedia like behind-the-scenes videos and trailers also allow the viewer to judge the film for themselves, instead of soley having to rely on a critic.

Empire Magazine, although considered by many to be worth the money, it does cost five pounds, whereas access to IMDB is completely free. Normally this would mean that the wesbite has to make up for a lack of revenue from the reader by containing a lot more advertising than the magazine, but actually, IMDB is fairly advert free. Short of a couple of banners and adverts at the start of trailers, I would go as far as to say that IMDB contains less advertising than Empire, and it is less intrusive.

In conclusion, choosing a 'better' out of the magazine and the website is difficult, as they do not strive to achieve the same goal. While I would definitely say that IMDB is the best resource for information, Empire Magazine is much more enjoyable to read for pleasure. In the future, IMDB will, I think, continue to grow, as it has already began to, incorporating film from all over the world, television shows, and even video games.
Empire Magazine will continue to hold its role as the most popular movie magazine in the country, and increase it's online capabilities. Personally I would imagine it is only a matter of time before the whole magazine appears online, but that brings in the messy business as to whether anyone would be willing to pay for a subscription to it online, which could, in turn, lead to it being online exclusively. This has never really worked out for magazines in the past, but perhaps this could prove to be the exception.

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