The last few years influencers and product ‘testers’ who got a free product to review to place a review are common to see in many places such as on amazon, youtube, and many other websites. In the 2nd case, it is about products that people get for free, which can be just about anything from flashlights to thermos bottles, and in the 1st case, it is about people getting paid to write an article in which to name a company, which is used to generate ‘credibility’ for such a company’s site, via the number of links to these sites.
Is there a reason to view this type of advertising as an undesirable direction in which it is going?
With links to companies, the possibility that such advertising is used is made possible by search engines not actually valuing content, but mainly valuing links. This could be mitigated by the search engines using techniques to weed out useless sites. I’ve seen for example when searching for some books, sites that are basically just referral sites to Amazon, adding an unneeded layer of someone doing no real work but making money off of links to amazon (in case you buy something on Amazon after visiting it via that linked site). It also pollutes search results for information.
An issue with getting something for free is that many reviewers then feel compelled to write a positive review. This is not so for everyone, but negative aspects can often be disregarded in such cases. I’ve reviewed some products that were given to me for free related to reviews that I had already done, and I did mention the negative points, not just for the readers but also because I want to give the company ideas to improve the product. In my case, there was never any issue with these companies asking in advance for e.g. a 5/5 star review. But in my case, they didn’t specify anything that I should do, and if they had done so I would not have accepted any restrictions about the actual review or showing of flaws. A lot of companies are not interested in such constructive critical feedback, they want to just sell as much as possible, but those who do want it to improve their products appreciate a review that gives a good view of what a custom thinks and what he feels should be improved. A reviewer should not mind that mentioned negative points might mean that he may not get another product for free from that company, but it looks like many people are influenced in this way.
You can see whether a review on e.g. Amazon is useful specifically by the fact that it mentions some issues or problems. Just praising that a product works well with very little explanation is not very useful. It is usually easy to spot useless or too positive reviews simply by the uncritical nature of the text. Of course, not everyone is suited to writing a useful review, and such reviews don’t necessarily mean that that person is writing a positive review because he got the product for free. However, to avoid any issues generally the way I read reviews is to first look at the negative reviews, then the longer reviews that mention some critical points (but which may still give up to a 5/5 rating), and last of the long-only positive reviews.
With websites, it can be difficult to spot which sites are useful and trustworthy from advertising texts. A lot of them are badly written and clearly mainly used as link farms and as such the articles often don’t matter much, they are often of poor quality writing, sometimes it even looks like something that was created by a random number generator. Such websites are often not use themselves to gauge the quality of a website/service, and other sites should be sought out first for guidance before committing to some service or product, this can be anything from a dating site, to a betting site, for example, CasinoChan Canada.
Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels