Apparently there are 23,000 bloggers who have registered to write vendor-paid "reviews" of products and services. That's according to the blog on SponsoredReviews.com, a service that connects hungry bloggers to paying vendors and then takes a 35% cut on the transaction.
Can you trust those reviewers even if they disclose themselves as shills for vendors, as is required? I mean, even if the bloggers truly love the product they are critiquing, would you take their word for it?
In the pitch to bloggers to join, SponsoredReviews explains that vendors have control over such things as a review's length and how a blogger handles links. It also advises potential reviewers that they are allowed to offer "constructive criticism" and not be "rude or hateful."
Having reviewed my share of products in my day, sometimes constructive criticism is not enough, sometimes you can only be rude to get across your point. Some products and services deserve derision in order to get them off the market as fast as possible. Microsoft Bob comes to mind.
Paying for praise has an established place in the market. It's called advertising. Readers understand it. More importantly, readers appreciate it when it supports a blogger or publication that provides credible information.
SponsoredReviews and its ilk are providing a service to readers like Microsoft Bob was providing a service to Windows users. In other words, these so-called reviewing services are undermining the value of both the content of the blogger and the vendor's products or service. They hurt not help. They're stupid. They are evil. They portend the end of civilization as we know it.
Oh, btw, I was not paid for this review.
This story, "Can You Trust This Blog?" was originally published by Computerworld.