I Say iTunes Store Rankings are Rigged

Are you kidding me?It was just hours ago that I stared, disgusted, at my TV as Comcast’s OnDemand service pelted me with ad after ad for their newest pay-per-view offering, the Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson crapfest Fool’s Gold. I found this disgusting because of all the fantastic movies in the world Comcast could promote, they were wasting time on this terrible specimen. (If you didn’t realize, Fool’s Gold received a 0% rating on RottenTomatoes. Few movies achieve this.)

Why lousy product gets promoted in this manner isn’t a mystery: the movie studios pay for that kind of placement. And to grant Comcast a miniscule amount of credit, they weren’t claiming the movie to be the best of anything; they were simply running an excessive number of ads for the program. So imagine my surprise when I logged onto AppleTV tonight and discovered that Comcast wasn’t the only one who’d received some special attention from the studios: Fool’s Gold was the #1 iTunes rental.

Are you kidding me?

It’s implausible that any population would be gung-ho for this film, but AppleTV/iPhone/iPod customers? I’ll submit my next statement to you without feeling the need to offer supporting evidence: the people that own those devices do not like movies like Fool’s Gold.

And while I found that #1 ranking preposterous, I was barely prepared for what would hit me next: Fool’s Gold wasn’t just the number one iTunes rental, it was also the number one purchase. That’s right: Apple is claiming that more people are purchasing Fool’s Gold, for $14.99, for permanent inclusion in their libraries, than any other movie on iTunes. Note to Apple: this is ridiculous. If you’re going to do “Top 10” lists, do not let the studios buy placement on them.

Do I know for certain that the iTunes store ratings are rigged? No, I don’t. But I’d be happy to listen to anyone’s even semi-plausible excuse for how this could be happening.

Does this ruin the iTunes store for me? Of course not. But anytime Comcast can show you up in the ethics department, it’s time to re-examine your practices.

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3 thoughts on “I Say iTunes Store Rankings are Rigged

  1. Interesting. Indeed, there are many people who are 1) using Twitter, and 2) watching Fool’s Gold; two audiences that I wouldn’t have thought overlapped in any way. But there are a couple things that aren’t accounted for here:

    1) I didn’t see many references to people watching Fool’s Gold on their iPod, iPhone, or AppleTV, which is the audience I was referring to. (I got the impression that a significant number of these people were watching on DVD.)

    2) You can type in the names of other DVDs released in a recent timeframe (“Chaos Theory”, for one) and find lots of references to that, too. That movie is not in Apple’s Top 10, yet there’s still plenty of Twitter activity around it.

    This last reason makes me think that what we see on Summize is primarily anecdotal evidence. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, mind you…just that I’m not sure it’s persuasive proof that Fool’s Gold deserves a #1 spot on iTunes.

    But I’ll keep an eye on the situation…

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