Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review Nation

Our opinion is important, isn't it? Associated Content runs content requests for reviews of products at times (paying as much as $10 per article). Epinions pays $1 or more for short reviews at times. asks for reviews on travel, and lately, is asking for reviews on home improvement companies, home accessories stores, and anything related to home renovation.

Why are our opinions so important?

Back in the day--1999, to be offered an entire pound of Dunkin Donuts coffee for reviewing online companies. Yes--you wrote a review and they spent--what? $6?--on a pound of coffee, and then $3-4 to send it two-day shipping via UPS. My opinion was worth a lot of Joe back then.

I think I earned 60 lbs of coffee with that promotion. My friends got some, we drank some, we freezed some, and eventually I got so tired of the coffee that I just...stopped writing reviews. They broke me!

Epinions used to give $2+ for a review; again, back in the day, earning a few hundred there was easy. is a new site offering money for reviews; a pot of money is divided between reviewers based on readership, so it's another spin on this idea of revenue sharing. Rather than ad revenue, it's a predetermined amount of money. Talk about a zero-sum game.

When did our opinion become so important? When social networking became key. It's not just about user-driven content. It's about user-driven relationships and--harnessing? managing? controlling? shaping? collaborating? Pick a term.

How about "making mad loot off this process"?

Web companies want to develop relationships with their users; message boards, email pings, "trusted user" designations, contests and giveways all seek the same end: to get the user to come back.

And yet the users need to be motivated by some intrinsic desire to visit web sites, right? Shoppping for an item, searching for an answer to a question, seeking like-minded users--with HomeStars or Angie's List it's all about home renovation and home-related items, while with or reviews, it's all about books, dvds, videos, and gadgets you buy. The grocery section on has become one of my favorite places to shop--that review on Bare Fruit dried cherries does affect my purchase. It's user-driven content that shapes my behavior and dollar pattern.

Is user-driven content about social engineering?

You bet. And why not? Why not let word-of-modem replace word-of-mouth?

So go do your part and socially engineer someone in Bangladesh, or Des Moines, or London right now. Write a review. Do it for free. Sometimes the free content is worth more, in the end, than anything you're paid for. It worked in 1997 when I landed a job as a result of free material I put online. Perhaps "Review Nation" can do the same for you.

p.s. You can review this post by leaving a comment.

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