By RICHARD SIKLOS
The New York Times
THE closest that Col Needham gets to corporate life is the Dilbert
calendar in his neat office -- a converted bedroom in a quaint house
in the ancient village of Stoke Gifford, a suburb of Bristol, the
harbor city that is 90 minutes west of London by train.
As the founder and managing director of the Internet Movie Database,
Mr. Needham might just be the archetype of the telecommuting
Web-head. The site he founded and runs, www.imdb.com, ranks as the
10th-most-popular entertainment spot online, according to ComScore
Media Metrix. It had 18.6 million unique visitors in April, a 67
percent surge from a year earlier.
In Stoke Gifford, Mr. Needham works solo -- without even an assistant
-- but is in constant contact by instant message with other employees
scattered across the globe and at the Seattle headquarters of
Amazon.com, which acquired the business eight years ago. "Everybody
assumes that we have a massive office complex on Wilshire Boulevard,"
Mr. Needham said with a grin. "I always say, 'We're headquartered on
the Internet.' "
Mr. Needham, a boyish, closely-shorn 39-year-old walked to the
kitchen, put on the kettle and made tea. Part of what makes him a
curiosity -- beyond his enviable work setup -- is that Internet Movie
Database, or Imdb for short, has become a classic example of a hobby
that turns out to be a powerful media asset. For years, it has quietly
gone about its business almost entirely separately from its parent,
and only subtly does it encourage users to go to the Amazon site to