I go online to purchase a new album, but am skeptical if it’s any good. Thus, I read a review on a corporate website, and then read another by an independent blogger. Both reviews offer good arguments for their opinions, but differ completely in rating the product. So who do I trust?
Reviews and editorial content will eternally be debated over their opinions, but should the source that it originates from be more the target of debate? With the availability of blogs and user review sites over the past several years, the playing field has shifted dramatically. I’ve tried to analyze the pros and cons of corporate versus independent reviews, and I believe it’s pretty even now.
It’s easy to be skeptical of corporate reviews, if you know the money involved behind the scenes. For example, do you think an MSNBC editor would be able to publish a review ripping the inadequatecy of Windows? Not a chance, since the site is partially owned by Microsoft, it would get edited out.
Advertising and sponsorship revenue plays a huge part in how corporations review. For example, if Rolling Stone hypothetically published an editorial claiming Guess Jeans are made in sweatshops, I doubt you’d be seeing that two page spread of Paris Hilton modeling the latest cut of Guess denim again there. Corporations cannot bite the hand that puts their gold fillings in place.
On the other hand, most bloggers or user reviews are not being paid for their editorial content. This aspect allows their honesty to be more raw and less edited. Most do it because they want to either showcase their writing in hopes of more opportunities, or they simply enjoy voicing their opinion in this open forum. I’ve found a lot of user reviews are just an outlet after that user finds the product deceptive in its advertising (what a surprise!).
Additionally with a blog type review, the ability for many people to add their opinion or debate certain points within the critique allows greater room for accuracy. Granted, a hundred hard-core fans could be the ones posting comments, but normally objectors are the ones to chime in. Such democratic consensus surely has to have corporate reviewers looking towards such a format in the future.
I’d imagine the primary advantage of a paid reviewer though is professionalism based on previous credentials, although blogs have gained a tremendous amount of ground on them. Celebrity reviewers that everyone knows (like Roger Ebert) create a name recognition that the bloggers and user reviewers aren’t able to match on a national level. But by no means does that make an independent review any less credible.
I think in the end, reviews come down to trust. If you follow a blogger’s other reviews and continuously agree with what they say, they become just as credible as a newspaper reviewer you’ve read for years. For now, I will continue reading both corporate and independent reviews, because I like having the perspective in my research. I implore you to do the same.