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Old 06-05-2007, 12:03 PM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default Pay to Play: Uncovering Online Payola

From our news post:

Have you ever finished reading a review on a website and wondered just how accurate it might be? It could be that you relied on a review for guidance, only to find out that the products overall quality is worse than the reviewer led on to believe. Reviewers being paid off for good reviews is nothing new, especially in the gaming sector. Not many have taken the time to investigate the potential problem with tech sites though, such as our own.

Over the past three months, DailyTech put together a series of faux companies, product portfolios and trademarks. In a combination of phone and email correspondences, our team of journalists set out to find illicit and unethical review behavior in the English-print, computer hardware review industry.

Simple enough. Their game was to mimic a real PR company that represents a real manufacturer. The goal was to get an idea of how many tech sites would accept "bribes", or allow the company to pay them for writing a review. Their results are surprising, but not so much at the same time.
Of 35 online computer-related publications, 23 (66 percent) refused editorial influence in exchange for advertising. Of remaining 12, seven publications (20 percent, Fig. 1) agreed to editorial service in exchange for advertising or cash.

20% of the websites agreed to be paid for the review, while the other 80% refused. Techgage was one of those 35 websites contacted, and we of course stated that we never would charge for reviews. DT pulled off their game well, because while discussing a potential review of their "fake" product, I had no thought that I was being set up.

Although their article is in-depth, it lacks actual site names. Some members of their community are demanding that the sites who agreed to accept money be uncovered, but for whatever reason, they wish to keep that private. If they wish to continue keeping that list as such, then these sites will simply continue on misleading their readers. Remember that these are not small websites. Chances are you visit a few of them daily.

If there is anything you should take away from the article, it's that you shouldn't immediately trust the first review you read. Even as the head of a tech site, I admit that I would read more than one review if I were to make a large purchase. Two perspectives can be better than one.

That said, Techgage can only be bribed with beer. And lots of it.

http://www.dailytech.com/Pay+to+Play...rticle7510.htm
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Old 06-05-2007, 01:00 PM   #2
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Publishing the names of either the editors or the sites is a slippery slope. I can understand why DailyTech didn't reveal any names but as someone who has a vested interest in the future of Techgage, and an overall respect for the editors at other sites, it would be nice to know how is on the take and who legit.

I can understand sites wanting to up their advertising. More revenue means better servers, better site designs and an overall better browsing experience. The line however should be drawn at accepting bribes. As an editor, we have a obligation to the readers to provide them with an honest opinion of the hardware and software that we review. Deviating from the honest approach is a double edged sword as well. If we are dishonest in our reviews, not only could we influence the end users into buying a crappy product but it ultimately makes us look like douche bags to the readers as well as our peers.

As much as I would like to see that list (in all reality, it's for vain, selfish reasons), I respect DailyTech's stance of not sharing names. They took the high road in this story by bringing the issues to the attention of the masses without naming any names. If anything, this whole story will either expose the phonies in the long run, or make everyone work a little harder to provide quality, well written and unbiased reviews.
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Old 06-12-2007, 01:53 AM   #3
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mmm... Beer.
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Old 06-13-2007, 10:04 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madstork91 View Post
mmm... Beer.
LOL
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