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17 April 2020

IMDb Website Clone - How to Create a Movie Review Website Like IMDb

IMDb (Internet Movie Database) is the most popular and vast database of information related to films, series, TV shows, home videos, videogames and streaming video content. This website includes data about the content (release date, cast, production crew, gross, etc.) and, what’s most important, users’ ratings and reviews, which attract almost all the traffic. We’re going to tell you how to create your own movie review website like IMDb and make it a successful and profitable business project.

Step 1: niche and target audience



Main statistical indicators of IMDb website. Source of the image

On the IMDb website, you can find reviews of almost every movie, series and TV show. Dramas, fantasy, old movies, low-budget arthouse films, westerns, and other genres — all of that and much more is presented on this platform. IMDb began as a database in 1990, moved to the web in 1993, and it got its current name in 1996. And this is one of the main advantages of the IMDb website.

When you launch your movie review website, its listing most likely won’t be as big and full as IMDb’s. That is why there will be no point in creating direct IMDb’s competitors. It would be much more appropriate to choose a niche, which is very popular with the viewers and to work only in this direction.

The niche can be both a certain genre and another approach to content reviewing. For example, Rotten Tomatoes website provides the certified critics’ reviews, Metacritic shows two averaged scores by users and professional editions, BCDB and CommonSenseMedia review the content for children and IAFD is focused on adult video content (erotic and porn).

How to choose a niche for a new movie review website:

  1. The «4 Ps». Preferences: your own interests, knowledge, taste. Problem: what movie genres are poorly represented on review websites? Public: what target audience will be interested in your site, what exactly in your project can catch its interest? Product: will you be able not only to create a website but also to make more money from it than you’ve invested at the start?

  2. Estimation of potential profit and associated risks. Access the volume of a target market and its purchasing power. Determine, if your potential users will visit your site, if you will find sponsors and investors, if the target audience’s attention will stay heightened through the years.

  3. Competitive environment analysis. Define what players work in the niche that you have chosen. Compare them with the market leaders and with your idea. Thoroughly research into their positioning and advertising campaigns. You need to understand whether you will be able to stand out amongst competitors somehow and, in an ideal scenario to become a leader in the specific niche.

  4. Promotion channels and format. Specify a list of marketing channels and appropriate ways of ad presentation, which will help you to attract your target audience to your platform. It could be SEO, SMM, mailing, Google ads or mobile apps advertising. Choose several of the most effective options.

  5. Choice of the most appropriate option. Analyze as many niches and directions for your project as you can, compare them with the key criteria (market volume, the presence of competitors, opportunities for marketing and its potential profit) and choose the best option for the launch of your website with reviews of movies, series, TV shows and / or other video content.


Step 2: preferable business model


IMDb’s business model is unique in many respects because it’s the biggest and the oldest website with the data about а film industry and because the site is working in close collaboration with the other Amazon’s projects. This is a large amount of data, money and advertising connections. A startup doesn’t have such opportunities.

However, if we simplify IMDb’s business model, then we’ll see that this site is structured around data about the video content and users’ reviews. Such a project isn’t expensive and difficult to create. The most important thing is to initiate a network effect: the more reviews there are on the site, the more links to the site will be. And in that case, people will leave comments more often.

This effect can be achieved if you correctly choose a niche, feature set, and marketing strategy and if you don’t go too far with push-notifications, advertising and other ways of project monetization. We’re going to talk about website features and marketing later. Now let’s see how the IMDb platform makes money. There are five such ways.

Ordinary advertising. This is the simplest and available to all people way of monetization for any site, which can be provided with the help of Google Ads, for example. IMDb never had a lot of such advertising and there almost isn’t any after the purchase of Amazon platform. Nevertheless, if you create your movie review website, then ordinary PPC advertising will become your main source of profit.


Comparison of five the most common ways to monetize your advertising. Source of the image

Extended functionality. Paid features on IMDb were launched in 2002 as IMDbPro. In exchange for monthly ($19,99) or annual ($149,99) membership, IMDbPro allows you to see what productions are on the horizon, who is working on what, how to contact directors and agencies and a host of other resource for the budding actor/cameraman/writer or whatever.

A couple of years ago, IMDbPro also added the Pro Casting service. This is a listings service featuring casting calls, auditions, and upcoming roles. It is another way for the aspiring star to find necessary events and people.


That’s how the Pro Casting service looks on the IMDb website. Source of the image

Affiliate programs. Movie review website can make money with the help of links to marketplaces, where the movies are being sold, or on the streaming services, which show movies in the website listing. Affiliate links on IMDb go to a marketplace Amazon or to the streaming service IMDbTV. When launching your website, similar to IMDb, you can cooperate with such programs:

  1. Amazon Affiliates. The simplest and the most common way of review website monetization. Site visitors look at the rating and read the reviews. If they’re convincing enough, then they click the link and purchase DVD or digital copy of the film in Amazon shop, and you in your turn receive a small commission for each transaction.

  2. Commission Junction. One more service to generate profit from your movie and series review website, only there’s not one but a variety of advertisers, for instance, CinemaNow, Blockbuster, and Disney. Collaboration with various streaming services is also possible here.

  3. Streaming services. Such services as CBS, Sling TV, Philo, FuboTV and others (possibly, Disney+ after the launch), have their affiliate programs, which you can work with directly without intermediaries. In this case, the commission will be higher than if you collaborate with Commission Junction, for example.


Streaming service. IMDb launched its streaming service IMDb TV (announced under the name of Freedive) in 2019. As a matter of fact, this is a free ad-supported Netflix analogue. When launching your project, you can follow the path of both IMDb TV and Netflix. Although, you’ll need copyright holders’ appropriate authorizations.


Freedive is available only in the USA yet and a larger part of its collection is old movies.

Big data sales. Neither IMDb, nor Amazon go public about it, but there’s no doubt that they sell anonymized personal data and make a lot of money out of it. All websites with high amounts of traffic do that and in fact, there’s nothing wrong with it as long as the data is really anonymized.

Step 3: the main feature of the platform



Features, which need to be implemented in IMDb clone

When you clone IMDb features on your platform, you don’t have to make them exactly identical to the original, moreover, most times it’s even undesirable. You need to have the same features on your web platform, but you should make them more convenient and simple, focusing on today’s user. Thereat it’s necessary to implement at least three user panels:

  1. Premium users with full rights to manage other users, listing, content, databases, advertising integrations, etc. There must be two types of admins: master admin and ordinary ones. Master Admin can create profiles for ordinary admins and manage their access to particular site management functions.

  2. Ordinary users. Any website user, who wants to read the review, to find out who starred in, what film a certain director made, etc. If the user signs in, he will be able to share information about the movies and series, write reviews and rate (some sites don’t need you to sign in to do it). Besides, registered users can add movies, series, TV shows, video games, events to the website listing and to the «watchlist».

  3. Users, who paid for a subscription (IMDbPro). IMDb gives such users access to more detailed content about what movies, series, TV shows are planned to be made or are already being made, who participate in the projects, how to get to the audition and much more. In addition, the users with IMDbPro membership can create their personal pages (portfolio), where they can write information about their professional activity.


Step 4: the best marketing strategy



Analysis of IMDb’s traffic Source of the images with the help of SimilarWeb service

The main traffic source of any review website should be the organic search because there are many texts with product description on such platforms, which theoretically search engines have to like. This means that when promoting your own site, which is similar to IMDb, you need to make a bet on SEO and user content. Thereat you need to pay as much attention as you can to rating, reviews of movies, series, and other content.

Think about the implementation of the following elements on your site:

  1. Tools for art. Users’ reviews on IMDb are same-type and even outdated, which doesn’t meet the current users’ needs. As a research of reviews on Yelp shows, reviewers want to approach the reviews in more creative ways using images, GIF, emoji, various fonts and colors to make their reviews more unique and outstanding.

  2. Tools for assessment of reviews. All modern platforms with reviews and users’ comments provide the opportunity to assess them by likes and dislikes, points or stars, several types of emoji. Positive assessment encourages to submit more reviews. Moreover, if you have a user rating of reviews, it’s possible to create an algorithm, which will show reviews, which got more users’ attention, at the top of the screen.

  3. Tools for rating sharing. There also should be an opportunity to show a rating of a movie or series from your platform on the other sites. It’s usually done with the simple script, which shows the icon and automatically updates it if the rating has changed.

  4. Tools for social media integration. Users should have the opportunity to share their review or the one they liked on social media. And this function needs to be very simple and clear like on YouTube or even simpler.


Step 5: approaches to the development




You can use several ways to create a movie review website like IMDb:

  1. Frameworks. Software products, which simplify the development and maintenance of technically challenging projects. They usually contain only basic software modules and all specific components for the future site are implemented by the developer on their basis. This reduces complexity, time and cost of site creation, but thereat the project can be almost as unique as in case of development from scratch. Typically, this is the most appropriate option.

  2. SaaS / white label. These usually are the entirely ready-to-use products, which just need to be adjusted to a certain project a little bit. As a rule, they have few adjustments and opportunities to make your project unique. However, they’re enough to slightly change the design of your site and to set up the needed payment gateways. If SaaS is used, then the software vendor usually undertakes its installation, adjustment, and maintenance.

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