Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.
Re: Product reviews from anyone with an opinion
Author: Paul Snively Posted: 10/25/1999; 1:56:26 PM Topic: Today's scriptingNews Outline Msg #: 12342 (In response to 12310) Prev/Next: 12340 / 12343
The New York Times wrote:
"These sites purport to be more objective than retailers that offer user opinions. But some question whether sites that accept commissions, referral fees or advertising can deliver worthwhile information, even if it is provided by individuals with no vested interest in the products."
This is silly, and the Times should be embarrassed to have printed it.
Short of out-and-out kickbacks to the reviewers, if the reviewers genuinely have "no vested interest in the products," how can the information be anything but worthwhile? Epinions, in particular, is quite careful to compensate its reviewers regardless of whether the review is good or bad. Plus all members can review the reviewers. Unless you really have a strong philosophical bias against free market forces, it's hard to see anything wrong with this approach.
Since the Times itself is, of course, an advertising-supported medium, I think we need to consider the strong possibility that it perceives systems such as Epinions a threat: a free opinion market won't be subject to "branding," spin, and the usual obfuscatory nonsense that only works thanks to "broadcast" (in a broad sense, including print) media.
Couple this with the Staples spokeswoman, after Staples naively sent a five-digit $20 discount "coupon" to a list of wired customers and got ripped off blind when the number showed up on web sites, news groups, etc. (see <http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1007-200-852171.html?tag=st.cn.1002newsfd.>) claiming "We're seeing the problems that come from moving brick-and-mortar companies to the Web," and you really have to wonder whether such organizations are deliberately attempting to mislead the reader or are merely dangerously ignorant.
The only thing I can say for sure is that I'm getting tired of the twaddle.
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