Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Always Read Blogs Critically

Following up on the Wal-Mart blogging scandal, we’d like to now address the issue of product reviews and recommendations in blog sites.

When you read an article on the front page of the New York Times, you can be pretty sure that the article has been carefully written and edited. Moreover, you can be pretty sure that content in the newspaper that appears to be an article is, in fact, an article, not an advertisement disguised as an article. These rules do not necessarily apply to content found in the “blogosphere.”

A relatively new web site, PayPerPost.com , allows advertisers to pay to have individual bloggers post on their blogs about products and services offered by the advertiser. Bloggers continue to host their blogs on their own web server or blog hosting service such as Blogger, integrating content into their blog to fulfill PayPerPost.com’s objectives along with their own personal work. While PayPerPost does have specific guidelines detailing the types of blogs that they will allow, these guidelines ensure that advertisers paying for PayPerPost.com’s services have their funds used to generate posts only on blogs that meet minimal quality standards. These guidelines don’t address the quality of posting done by the individual bloggers.

More troubling is the fact that bloggers being paid by PayPerPost.com do not need to disclose they are being paid to make their posts on their blogs. This leaves end users of a blog unable to judge whether a post they are reading about a new computer program being useful is truly real, or contrived by the blogger solely for the purpose of making a quick buck.

One should definitely not rely solely on information found in one blog to make a decision regarding purchasing a product. Using sites such as technorati.com can allow users to find the most authoritative blogs in the general content area they are interested in, where one may be able to determine whether there is a general consensus of blog posts among the premier blogs in an area on a particular product or issue.

Furthermore, there is an array of web sites that offer solid product comparisons and reviews (e.g. cnet.com), and a good way to find them is to just Google. For example, the phrase “laptop reviews and comparisons” will bring up a list of review/comparison sites. Just look at the site for its scope and quality before using it, then check out the product on a few more comparison sites to look for consistent evaluations.


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