An A-List Worth Ignoring

Zachary Seward notes a growing trend in movie names, especially among video-on-demand titles:

Film studios have figured out that, all else being equal, it’s better for a movie to appear toward the top of the A-to-Z listings where people increasingly pick what they’re going to watch next.

“We call it alpha-stacking,” says Paul Bales of the Asylum, an independent studio that specializes in straight-to-video horror films. Last year, the company generated $16 million in revenue with movies that included Adopting TerrorAir CollisionAlien OriginAmerican Worships, and Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies.

But movie studios aren’t the first to play this game:

Phonebooks are typically front-loaded with small businesses that all seem enamored of the letter “A.” Authors writing under pseudonyms have been known to pick names that appear closer to the start of fiction shelves in bookstores. But it’s worse for digital media, with seemingly endless supply but few good ways of navigating among the competitors. Companies depend on their products to appear in hand-selected feature menus, crowdsourced most-popular lists, or algorithmic picks. (Netflix recently said that 75% of viewing on the service is driven by its personalized recommendations.) Short of that, it comes down to tricks. People who make mobile apps, for instance, admit to naming conventions they hope will compete alphabetically in crowded app stores.

Update from a reader:

My friend’s dad growing up was the president of a bank named BancFirst, and I was told it was so it would appear in front of all those loser banks that used the “K”.