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Netflix tagging: Yes, it’s a real job

Josh Garrell is a Netflix tagger. His job? He is paid to watch television shows and movies for hours a day. (Video: Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

Starting in the wee hours of June 12, hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to binge-watch Season 3 of Netflix’s original production “Orange Is the New Black.”

The payoff for the vast majority of the audience is the satisfaction of consuming a long-awaited update on Piper and the rest of the prison crew.

[Everything you need to remember about Season 2 of ‘Orange Is the New Black’]

But that’s not the case for a Netflix tagger — which is an official Netflix job title — who is paid to watch movie and television content for the Internet streaming service.

Tagging involves entering words or phrases that describe the movie or television show into the company’s database in an effort to make Netflix’s search functions more precise. It helps the company categorize their ever-changing catalogue, and bring more accurate recommendations to viewers. It involves a humanizing element to a complex, engineered algorithm.

[Netflix now accounts for almost 37 percent of our Internet traffic]

Josh Garrell is one of just 40 official taggers employed by Netflix.

While Garrell, 35, was not assigned to watch “Orange Is the New Black,” he’s seen his fair share of movies and television shows in his two and a half years of work. “Even if I didn’t do this job, I would probably be watching as much as I am anyway,” Garrell said. “I’m just lucky enough to get paid for it.”

Netflix hires only part-time taggers, something Garrell wishes could be a full-time occupation. He also works as a freelance TV and film producer. But when he’s on his couch in front of his 110-inch projector screen, he’s tagging for Netflix.

[Netflix has hits, Emmys and subscribers. But can it survive its fight with cable?]

The number of assignments given vary from day to day. While Netflix says they try to accommodate taggers based on the genres they enjoy watching, it’s not a guarantee.

Take “Bonnie and Clyde: Justified,” a B-rate re-imagining of the American outlaws, and what Garrell considers to be his most ridiculous assignment.

“Some of what [Netflix] looks for in a tagger is somebody who has a voracious appetite for when it comes to watching all types of television shows and movies,” he noted. Netflix also asks that their taggers be familiar with the film industry and have an analytical mind. But don’t get your hopes up for landing that job anytime soon: Netflix keeps their total amount of taggers small, and job listings for it go down almost as soon as they go up.

Garrell interviewed with Netflix for another job, and when he didn’t get it, he was then offered the tagger job, which he eagerly accepted. “I would say, outside of riding an ice cream truck, this is absolutely the best job out there,” Garrell said.

And no one’s disagreeing.