Monday, March 14, 2011

Disregard any Amazon Review with a "Top 10 Reviewer" Label on It

On something called Consumerist, an obviously intelligent fellow by the name Chris Walters writes in an article called The Fakery Behind Amazon's "Top 10 Reviewers":
Amazon reviews, especially the effusive ones, have always been suspect—you never know when a five-star review came from an employee, publicist, or marketing type. Slate describes the dishonest world of Amazon's "Top 10 Reviewers," where a small group of writers churn out purple-prosed blurbs and jacket-ready compliments at an astounding rate, sometimes for a fee. In turn, these reviewers are inundated with a sort of fame as well as free merchandise—mostly books in the past, but now electronics and other goods. Because good reviews sell more books, Amazon has no incentive to weed out the reviewers who have turned the system into a cottage industry. We suggest you disregard any review with a "Top 10 Reviewer" label on it. [Emphasis mine] [...]
My thoughts precisely — except I don't think "the group" is small, and I would extend the final suggestion to all reviewers with a "Top" denomination, be it "Top 10" or "Top 50" or even "Top 1000" (I just don't believe a normal independent bookreader (rather than a hired review-writer) will be willing to write a gigantic number of reviews that is necessary in order to break into the "Top" reviewer ranks).

Personally, I do read reviews when buying stuff there, but I start from going directly to one- and two-star reviews. If they make good sense, that's the end of this item — I don't even bother with positives, since I trust the authors/publishers to manufacture any number of gushingly extatic five-starrers for every piece of crap on earth. Otoh, if the negatives are not terribly convincing, I will peruse positive reviews too — but I always read them, analytically, not just let the bare fact that there are such reviews motivate me to reach for my wallet.

Iow, there are two approaches to dealing with Amazon reviews these days:

(1) If you're a moron, do NOT pay any attention to them (lest you get owned).

(2) If you do want to use them, don't be a moron — read them carefully; begin with the negatives. Never pay much attention to any particular review's starrage and especially "helpfulness" (voted, purportedly, by the public, but I bet, mostly by the shills, who vote "for" their and friends' reviews so as bump them up, and "against" the low-starrage-dealing enemies, so as to push them down, out of sight, off the first page; for more on that see our Publishing giant Elsevier in hot water over hiring shills, The Belkin Saga (hiring shills on Amazon), and Why John T. Reed does not sell his books on Amazon any more (a.k.a. Amazon “fixes” review problem)).

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