A gent named Stuart Skorman believes there is still a place in this modern Netflix world for the helpful words of your friendly neighborhood video store clerk. Except he’s not actually selling videos anymore. And the neighborhood is cyberspace.
But nevertheless, Skorman hired more than 20 former video store clerks and pooled their collective knowledge into a new Internet search engine called ClerkDogs.
Of course, Skorman is a former video store owner, and feels that the impersonal Netflix recommendation engine is far inferior the human touch his service provides.
Netflix offers recommendations for its 8.7 million subscribers by drawing upon a database of 2 billion ratings that its customers have entered during the past decade. By knowing whether you liked one movie, Netflix suggests others you might enjoy by mining the past preferences and renting patterns of subscribers who watched the same movies. But ClerkDogs, which launched today, asks visitors to enter the name of a movie they liked, and then generates a list of suggestions based on a computer-driven analysis of video clerks' insights and written reviews. It also allows users to tweak recommendations based on their moods at the time of a request.
But Skorman, 60, knows of what he speaks. In the 1980s, he took over a video store in Vermont and expanded it into a successful chain that he sold to a little company called Blockbuster Inc. for $3 million during the early ‘90s. A few years later, he moved to the San Francisco area and started Reel.com, an online service specializing in selling movies on videotape and, of course, recommending movies. Hollywood Video bought Reel for $100 million in 1998, generating a $17 million for Skorman. So listen up, mofos!