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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Creeping Spread of ReviewMe

I've been seeing ReviewMe pop up a lot while browsing through my collection of newsfeeds. It's a little disturbing to see because I instantly begin to have some doubts about whether the writer is being honest in his or her opinion. What's more, I instantly reject the idea of linking to that post, or even mentioning the product or site that's being reviewed. Even if I actually like what I see.

It's just an instinctive recoil from participating in some kind of advertising campaign for a company that's willing to pay for publicity. While a lot of Web 2.0 companies rely on viral, word of mouth-type of publicity, they don't pay for it. A product or site that deserves a mention gets it because it's deemed interesting, useful, or fun. Whereas a paid review is "forced" on a blogger. It doesn't naturally happen.

So the problem I see is that the blogosphere is heavily interlinked. Blogs link to other blogs a lot. We drive content to each others' sites because we find a post insightful or otherwise worthy of traffic. However, when paid reviews start springing up, the sort of trust that the blogosphere operates on begins to erode. After all, not all paid blogging services actually require disclosure.

Right now, the novelty factor is still there so bloggers who are paid by ReviewMe profess that they're just testing the service out to see how it works. Services like ReviewMe appeal more to mid-level bloggers who don't have the traffic of a TechCrunch, but still have a respectable amount of traffic. If you're TechCrunch, you don't need the cash from ReviewMe, and if you don't have enough traffic, you won't be accepted by ReviewMe. So the "middle" portion of the blogosphere's long tail is really at risk of becoming riddled with mouthpieces for corporate ad campaigns.


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