Friday, July 01, 2005

Rants on Reviews, and Other Nonsense

There is a great thread on the product review process linked from the Blue Collar blogsite. The short of it is that some of us feel that magazine reviews are "bogus", slanted, or otherwise not totally honest for whatever reason. What do the readers of this blog think? Following is my opinion/ rant on the subject.

I think that for years the product review segment in magazines was anemic, low quality, and specious. I lamented the lack of depth, quantity, and the quality of most magazine reviews. The exception being Dirt Rag, and the first year/ year and a half of Bike magazine. The lack of time spent with equipment was what really chapped my hide. I can't count the times that a product that was reviewed highly upon it's release was an utter failure after a few months of use. Of course, had the magazine actually used the product for a few months, they would have discovered that for themselves, and hopefully, reported it. However, that's usually not possible for a number of reasons that I won't go into here.

For the above reason, and many others, I am of the opinion that magazine reviews are not relevant in today's culture. People are looking for real world results, from real people, in a real hurry! That is where the internet has taken over. Specifically, sites like for the mountain biking set. However, examples can be cited for any number of products or services. I can access hundreds of real world reviews, opinions, tips, and hints about any product currently available in the cycling world now! I don't have to wait for a magazine review to show up in my snail mail that is effectively two to three months behind the times. (The typical lag time print media deals with) I not only can evaluate the information, but I can contact the users, ask specific questions, and recieve feedback quickly. Try that with the magazine parked next to your toilet! ( Aww, come on! You read in the bathroom, admit it!)

Now, while it's true, you can't believe everything you read on the internet, you never could believe everything you read before the internet arrived on the scene. So, what's the difference? The difference is that based on the sheer number of opinions, users, and their situations, it's much more likely you'll find something closer to the truth about a product than you ever would from one single corporate magazine article. Are those rags influenced by their advertizers, associations in the industry, or other corporate means? I don't know for sure. The likely hood is there, though, and I suspect it does occur. I do know that I'd trust "John Doe's" opinion of a new Fisher Paragon that he's had for a few months for no other reason than that he plunked down his own hard earned cash on it. Of course, because of that, he is not going to be totally impartial as a reviewer, but at least I know that! I am not so sure where the latest shiny rags editors veiws biases are coming from! And, since I too have been the proud new owner of a new product, I can at least separate the wheat from the chaff....well, at least a little bit!

Where does this leave the print media? Well, in no man's land, if they don't change. The print media will always have a better fix on where products and services are going, trend wise. They will always have the inside track on the newest developements, the innovators, and shapers of the cycling world. I think this is where the print media needs to focus their energies. By the time they could use a product effectively, write about it, and get it to me in print, it's old news!

Rant mode off! Thanks for reading, if you got this far!

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