Netflix RSS – Groundbreaking, yet somewhat disappointing…

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Much has been going on with Netflix (one of my favorite companies) as of late, and my Blogger problems have kept me from commenting. With those problems resolved, and new news from Netflix today, it’s time to remedy that…

Netflix released RSS feeds today (link up top), and did so with an interesting twist: while I may simply be unaware, this is the first instance of RSS feeds that I’m aware of for which you can receive personalized feeds; that is, one set of feeds is available to all Netflix members, but the content of a subset of those feeds is unique to a given individual.

Obviously this is necessary, as the contents of my rental queue et al are different than yours… but it’s nice to see it implemented in a clean manner.

Unfortunately, the usefulness of the feeds, at least for a frequent and long time customer such as myself, are dubious at best. Some examples might help illustrate some of the weaknesses:

1. Rental Queue feed: Excellent, I can now get a rank ordered list of the content of my rental queue via RSS. Unfortunately however, clicking a ‘post’ gives me the movie review page. I cannot, from the feed:

a) See when the movie is going to be released (just beacuse it’s item #1 on my list doesn’t mean it’s shipping next)

b) Manipulate the movie, e.g., links to remove from queue, move within queue, or even link to the full HTML view of my queue

Event a static post at the top of this feed that direct linked to my full HTML queue would be helpful (and easy to do).

Without this information, the feed has substantially less value to me.

2. Recent Rental Activity: Unlike the Queue feed, NFLX got the Returned section of this right; a link is embedded to allow me to click to rate the movie. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link anywhere on the click-through page to Review the movie (let alone have a link directly in the feed). I must first click the Member Review link in the upper right corner, causing a page load, and revealing a ‘write a review button’.

NETFLIX… I’ve mentioned this before, and now that you’ve found RSS religion, I’ll say it again. My movie ratings and reviews should be able to be published to my blog, even if it’s simply a short synopsis linking to a page you host. The viral multiplier of 2MM members linking to their reviews could a) dramatically improve your page rankings in the search engines for people searching on movie titles, and b) expose each review (and thus NFLX) to each of my friends and family members, potentially lowering your customer acquisition costs. Heck, you could even incent me to do this for you by spiffing me (affiliate marketing) by crediting me for members that sign-up as a result of reading one of my reviews on your hosted pages.

3. Public feeds (Top movies, etc): All nice, but made significantly less useful by not indicating a) my rating of the movie (if any) and b) my last rented date. I’ve rented and ranked 650+ movies on NFLX; I don’t want to have to remember or click through every single feed post to decide if I want to rent it/again. Yes, I know, you don’t want to have to personalize these feeds too… but I’m betting the effect would be worth the cost.

All and all, a decent first effort… which could be dramatically improved with some minor enhancements. Keep it up guys!

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