So if you haven't heard about the kerfluffle yet, the NYT discovered a guy who was taking money from self-published authors and churning out positive reviews for them. Correction, the guy started out doing reviews himself and then started hiring people to do the reviews for him. All positive, all the time from the sounds of it.
Of course, the guy and his minions never bothered to say in the review that it was a paid review. He just threw the reviews out there as actual opinions from real readers. And therein lies the rub.
Remember the other kerfluffle from a couple years ago? The FCC or some other such government agency decided we bloggers all needed to state publicly whether we received any compensation for the reviews we were posting. So we all started putting up disclaimers and swearing on a stack of classics that our reviews were the honest truth, so help us Rand-McNally.
:shrug: This guy publicly admits to running a service where he pulled the wool over the customer's eyes and not a damn thing happened. In fact, if you read the NYT article (which I won't point to but it's easy enough to locate on your own), it seems as if the journalist is holding this dude up as a shining example of entrepreneurial genius. :barf: He was a con artist working with other con artists and for other con artists. There's nothing good or heroic or genius about that.
But don't worry too much, folks. Karma eventually got this guy. He's selling motor homes in Tulsa (or mobile homes, or something... I forget what but it's definitely not paying him the $28K per month he made shilling good reviews for books). And I like to think karma will get those authors who paid him - because eventually the truth will come out as to whether their writing was actually any good.
Anyway, the point I was actually headed to is one where, as my husband put it a few moments ago, "Don't people realize reviews are just other people's opinions?"* Sure, reviews can help us evaluate a product before we buy it, but in the end, we're really just taking someone else's word for how awesome or horrible that product is. And 9.9 times out of ten, we're taking the word of someone we don't know from Adam.
So how do we know if their opinions are actually any good? We all have to make that determination on our own. Personally, I stopped reading reviews almost entirely - partly due to this behavior I posted about on Sunday. I want to know something about a book or a product, I look to people I already know I can trust. (Like my blog pals.) If no one I can trust has experience with what I want to know about, I search the web - reading reviews, sure, but also paying close attention to what the people are actually saying.
Sometimes I get screwed. I buy the product and it's not everything the reviews said it would be. But most of the time, I get exactly what I expected.
I don't know. Maybe this guy did such wicked awesome business because some writers are so desperate for awesome reviews they're willing to pay out the nose for them. Perhaps this all came about because it's less time consuming to pay some service to give you 5 stars than it is to write a book worthy of 5 stars (or less painful than admitting that perhaps your book wasn't as good as you thought it was). I get it.
And maybe this guy got away with it at all because people have stopped making judgment calls on their own. I dunno.
What do you think**?
*Hubs' incredulous reaction came from the idea that anyone would actually pay to have positive opinions thrown up online. And also from the fact that he rarely takes anyone's opinion as gospel without facts and evidence to back it up. :happy sigh: That's my guy.
** I've already formed my opinion. I'm just inviting discussion. =o)