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The Media The Almighty Buck Hardware

Tech Review Sites and Payola 189

Posted by kdawson
from the fish-in-a-barrel dept.
cheesecake23 writes "How often have you read a hardware review and thought: 'No way was that an honest opinion, the reviewer was bought'—? The Daily Tech has gone undercover to find out whether or not payola is accepted among the 35 largest online English-language hardware review sites. Questions asked and answered — Q: How many sites would take money (or sell ads) in exchange for a product review? A: 20 percent. Q: How many sites would additionally consider selling an Editor's Choice award? A: None. Q: Were any regions of the world more corrupt than others? A: No, it was 20-25% almost everywhere. Q: Does it depend on the size or age of the site? A: RTFA. Although no bad actors were explicitly unmasked, the article contains enough information to make a whitelist of quite a few good guys."
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Tech Review Sites and Payola

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  • Slashdot Payola (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04, 2007 @10:50PM (#19391143)

    Slashdot takes it, just admit it.

    How else can the editors explain Roland Piquepaille, [slashdot.org] among others?

    • by jcr (53032)
      What's to explain? He submits stories, and they get approved because they're interesting. What's your beef?

      -jcr
      • The beef (Score:5, Insightful)

        by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @12:08AM (#19391811) Journal
        The beef is that he is his own personal shill. Nearly every story he submits is a link to his own blog.

        Whether they're interesting stories or not, and whether his stories are worse than having no Roland at all, it's the sort of blatant self-promotion that people on Slashdot are finely attuned toward hating. It is an affront to the sort of chaotic diversity that we've grown accustomed to having here, and folks don't like it.

        • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

          The beef is that he is his own personal shill. Nearly every story he submits is a link to his own blog.

          Which in an unto itself isn't that bad. The problem is that most if not all his blog entries are just links to the original information source with a rehash of the information source. There's no insightful commentary, critique, or audience participation to add value to the piece. It'd be more useful to just look at the guy's blog link... find the real information source linked within... and then link

        • Re:The beef (Score:5, Interesting)

          by xenocide2 (231786) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:47AM (#19392393) Homepage
          Fuck, have you looked at the firehose? It's no wonder he gets stories posted. He knows grammar and spelling and doesn't get his news from slashdot. Which is better I can say than most submissions.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by TufelKinder (66342)
            Right -- or how about the simple fact that he's one of
            the top two submitters? Maybe when some of the whiners
            start submitting a couple hundred stories, they'll get a
            few accepted as well.
        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by Fizzl (209397)
          The problem is, they are shit stories tossed up with lots of chocolate and caramel.
          When you read the summary, it sounds awesomely cool and makes you want to read the linked articles. Further inspection always turns out the shit inside. Nowadays I recognize Rolands stories just be reading the summary: "Oh cool. This is interesting. Wait... Oh, yeah, another RP shit story."

          Roland should be shot, cut and buried in a forest [youtube.com]. I fucking hate when I get excited over nothing and end up giving the fucker 1c because
        • It's not only that.

          Most of the stories on his blog, aren't even his stories in the first place. They're just copied verbatim from somewhere else and submitted as his own stories. And I don't just mean a summary and a link to the original story, or some personal comments and a link, but copy and paste.

          So it's not just the shameless self-promotion and even the blatant plagiarism, it's also that he makes some ad impressions out of other people's content.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by nick_davison (217681)
      Slashdot takes it, just admit it.

      I think you're thinking of Cowboy Neal. And that was never conclusively proved.
    • Roland has recently been posting links directly to other sites, with no mention of his blog, far more frequently than links to his own blog.

      Have you just stopped looking at his articles for maybe a year now, because other Slashbots once told you they're links to his blogs?

      RTFRolandAs.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:06AM (#19392901)
      And if you pay a little extra they even publish your story twice.
  • I wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WFFS (694717) on Monday June 04, 2007 @10:51PM (#19391147)
    How much to get an article on Slashdot? =p
  • Toms (Score:5, Funny)

    by Iam9376 (1096787) on Monday June 04, 2007 @10:52PM (#19391161)
    I remember when Toms Hardware Guide was a good, unbiased resource..
    wait...
  • Online Payola against Publication Age -- Older and younger sites tended to refuse advertising and cash in exchange for editorial content
  • Is this a surprise? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bender0x7D1 (536254) on Monday June 04, 2007 @10:53PM (#19391171)

    In today's corporate-controlled world does anyone take reviews without a hefty dose of skepticism?

    I'm not trying to say that there aren't neutral reviewers but, with marketing budgets as they are, is anyone surprised that some "neutral" reviewers are actually paid enough to be biased?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Belacgod (1103921)
      When I look to buy, I read the bad reviews. If they sound kooky, I buy; if they have valid complaints I don't. Under no circumstances do I put any weight on good reviews.
    • Not a huge surprise. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jd (1658)
      The thing that scares me is that I've seen "reviews" in the regular and tech press that are so blatantly paid advertising as to be absurd, yet people actually take them as gospel truth. The Guardian newspaper in the UK is great in many ways, but don't bother with their tech section - it's almost 100% payola. I'm increasingly skeptical about the WSJ after seeing some of their "articles" as well. This isn't new - Computer & Video Games (aka Commodore & Vegetable Games) was notorious for highly questio
  • by Palmyst (1065142) on Monday June 04, 2007 @10:58PM (#19391201)
    How do we know daily tech did not take any payola from the reviewers surveyed?
    • by evanbd (210358)
      It would have been really fun if they turned around and threatened to print names if they didn't get ad money :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cheesecake23 (1110663)

      How do we know daily tech did not take any payola from the reviewers surveyed?

      I submitted this to /., so I'm one of 3 or so people who RTFA. They mentioned something about this, let's see ...

      There are approximately 150 circulated English-print technology websites; our team specifically targeted the 35 largest publications. We determined the size of these publications via Alexa's online index and publication-supplied web statistics. DailyTech was included among this list.

      Yes, there it is! They tempted themselves with payola. No word on whether or not they accepted though.

      • by Baddas (243852)
        That must have been a cool study, getting to call the editorial department anonymously and see if they're taking payola. Makes me want to do it to some of my ex-bosses.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kalriath (849904)

        There are approximately 150 circulated English-print technology websites; our team specifically targeted the 35 largest publications. We determined the size of these publications via Alexa's online index and publication-supplied web statistics. DailyTech was included among this list.

        Yes, there it is! They tempted themselves with payola. No word on whether or not they accepted though.

        They actually gave a hint when you combine the article with the comments. The article states that no publication with a seperate editorial and sales department would accept bribes, and in the comments mentioned that DailyTech has a seperate editorial from sales team. So, apparently their sales team refused.

    • by plover (150551) *
      I know you were being funny, but the author of the story is a lawyer who was doing some research, and not a Daily Tech staff writer.
  • by mrcaseyj (902945) on Monday June 04, 2007 @11:00PM (#19391213)
    Maybe they only take money from people they know are from major companies, because if they took money from anyone who asked, they would be quickly exposed.
    • by mpapet (761907) on Monday June 04, 2007 @11:54PM (#19391711) Homepage
      Not really. It's quite simple actually.

      The publication can't give a bad review. No more free review equipment.

      If consumers _really_ wanted unbiased reviews, then publications would do it the right way. Buy the product off the retailer's shelf and test. But that's expensive and no consumer is willing to pay for it. This has led to opportunities that equipment manufacturers exploit.

      Yes, the problem exists. IME the article in question is touching an ice cube on the tip of an iceberg, but no one cares enough to pay for the other, more objective, review. Want an honest review? Then pay for it. That's not going to happen though.
      • by networkBoy (774728) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:48AM (#19392401) Homepage Journal
        "If consumers _really_ wanted unbiased reviews, then publications would do it the right way. Buy the product off the retailer's shelf and test. But that's expensive and no consumer is willing to pay for it."

        You mean like consumer reports?
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by adelord (816991)
          I have a sincere question about Consumer Reports: For many of their car and computer hardware stats don't they depend upon readers sending in surveys? Doesn't that mean their reports may suffer from heavy selection bias? My wife will veto any big ticket item purchase if it doesn't have a favorable review. Thankfully Apple and Honda do very well so I got what I wanted when it has mattered so far, but part of me is worried that even though Consumer Reports is independent their methodology may be crap. My
          • by Comboman (895500) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:31AM (#19394763)
            The only specs that are based on subscriber surveys are reliablity/repair history. Everything else is based on laboratory testing. More info here [consumerreports.org]. I suspect they are statistically sound, since you often see "insufficient responses" in the results for high-end items.

            The biggest problem with their method (buying off the shelf rather than getting product from the manufacturer) is that by the time the testing is complete, you have a great deal of information on last year's model. Good for bargain hunters, but not for those who need to be on the bleeding edge (though I suppose those people don't really care what Consumer Reports says about the product they just have to have today).

    • by Moraelin (679338)
      Taking money can also be somewhat more subtle than "ok, it will cost you 30 silvers for a 95% score".

      For example, in traditional printed media, advertising money was always a big set of shackles. The "if you don't give us 95% or more, we'll not advertise in your magazine" threat was around in various shapes for as long as there were reviews magazines, and some caved in big time.

      I remember, for example, that back in the 80's some game magazines even let big publishers write their own shameless advertising as
      • by rtb61 (674572)
        The big catch with all of this is a percentage of end users get stuck with bad products and proceed to complain all over the net about it and everybody else avoids those products. That of course is only the start of the retribution, next up on the list the creators of the product might miss out on sales for over a year because nobody trusts them any more ie. why bother taking the chance there are plenty of others to choose from, eve the publishers get a black eye, a virtual three strikes and you out policy.
  • Isn't that akin to asking death row inmates if they're guilty?
  • by mi (197448) on Monday June 04, 2007 @11:00PM (#19391217) Homepage

    Although no bad actors were explicitly unmasked

    And why not, exactly? Oh, because they might sue? Come dear, this site talks about government oppression (and the need to oppose it) constantly. Resisting the evil **AAs is considered civil disobedience [slashdot.org] (automatically noble, of course). But you can't list the few sites, who — verifiably, one assumes — have agreed to accept something in exchange for better reviews?

    Sorry. No Pulitzer prize for this piece of investigative journalism...

    • by Kalriath (849904)
      Because DailyTech didn't list them? Because they might get sued?

      And last I checked... DailyTech doesn't talk about Government Oppression or ??AA either...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Because they might get sued?

        Sued for what? If the article had been properly researched, that court case would last about 30 seconds:

        Some review site: They lied and said that we'd accept money for better reviews! Sue! Sue!
        DailyTech: Here's the tape recording.
        Judge: Case dismissed.

        Depending on your local jurisdiction (but ask your local sheriff's department and your lawyer before you rely on anything I say here), it is not illegal for you to tape a conversation without telling the other party - if you are one of the parties in the conversation. There's no reason they couldn't have backed their article up with some solid evidence.

    • by RuBLed (995686)
      I agree with the parent but lucky us...

      From TFA

      Ikram: "We'd be willing to pay a little more for ads if you can get us some articles on ******"
      ******: "Ok, I can help arrange that."


      Since we all know what **** is this shouldn't be that hard...
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        Since we all know what **** is this shouldn't be that hard...

        Hey! That's my password. Why're they doing articles on that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Aluvus (691449)
      DailyTech belongs to AnandTech. AnandTech doesn't want to destroy its relationships with other sites. Conversely, it's willing to shine a spotlight on some of the good guys (Tech Report) because that improves their relationship.
    • by rhizome (115711)
      And why not, exactly? Oh, because they might sue?

      No. It's because they write for Slashdot as well.
    • Oh, because they might sue? Come dear, this site talks about government oppression (and the need to oppose it) constantly.

      The problem as I see it is that criticising the government is not analagous to criticising corporations. In many if not most of the societies of slashdot readers governments will not sue if you are vocally publically critical of them, but corporations will.

      In spite of changes to laws that have happened over the past few years there are still few (if any) direct and immediate rammifications of criticising your government, or a foreign government. The risk in criticising governments is medium to long term

  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Monday June 04, 2007 @11:01PM (#19391239)
    "Heavens no, next question?"

    Ask any Congressman and they'll be happy to tell you they don't take gifts from Lobbyist. Then you start asking have you ever accepted a trip, expensive bottle of wine or dinner, etc and the story changes. There are other ways of pressuring and where as I think there are legit sites like Tom's I think the percentages are much worse than presented. At the very least many sites are biased whether the bias comes from personal conviction or encouragement is the question.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pytheron (443963)
      best way I saw to accept a bribe was from the Korean film "The King and the Clown". A government minister is making a show of presenting a golden turtle to the King, who won't accept it due to the unsubtle nature of it being offered. After several attempts, the King obliquely points out that the minister ought to change his method, to which the minister replies "I don't have enough money for the journey home, my Lord... but if you will buy this turtle from me for the cost, you would help me greatly". The Ki
  • by PCM2 (4486) on Monday June 04, 2007 @11:03PM (#19391259) Homepage
    From TFA:

    The immorality of paying radio station disc jockeys to air music did not become apparent until investigations by Federal Trade and Federal Communication Commission.

    Pardon my naivety, but exactly what is so "immoral" about it? I've never really understood that. "I've got a radio station. You've got a song. Let's talk." Seems perfectly natural to me.

    A radio station could play a song a hundred times, or a million. If everybody hates the song, they're still going to hate it no matter how many times it gets aired. Meanwhile, the record company is out a pile of cash. It almost sounds like a win-win for the consumer.

    Obviously, bribing magazines for good reviews seems like a different matter...but the radio thing -- and especially the choice of the word "immoral" -- is kind of lost on me.

    • by Sangui5 (12317) on Monday June 04, 2007 @11:27PM (#19391463)
      There are other reasons to consider payola immoral, but there is a straightforward reason: if the DJ's only spin songs they've been payed to play, the those who can't pay won't get paid.

      Simply put, payola keeps small artists and those without the backing of a well-monied party at a distinct disadvantage. The major labels certainly form an oligopoly, and, cartel or not, they have maintained their oligopoly through 1) control of the distribution chain, 2) buying out the supply of new talent, and 3) through squeezing small players from the most effective publicity channels. #1 is threatened by the internet, and is their largest problem right now. #2 is the fault of bands stupidly signing disadvantageous contracts; to a mild extend newer bands are wising up, though. #3 is still an issue. Payola is the direct way of doing it, and gave the majors their initial dominance. Nowadays, it is a little more discreet; "independent promoters" get money from the majors, and then they in turn turn over "stuff" to radio stations (stuff ranging from blatant cash bribes to concert tickets to give away through on-air contests). Direct or not, payola floods playlists with songs from well-funded labels, at the expense of smaller labels or self-produced bands which do not have the resources to buy their way onto playlists.

      There is an exception; a record label can straight out pay to get a song played, but the radio station has to disclaim that it is a pay-for-play, and the amount of airtime devoted to pay-for-play is limited by law (I believe it may be by considering such to be advertising; and radio stations are limited in the fraction of airtime which is advertising). This sort of payment is probably unproblematic from a legal and a moral standpoint, unless playlists are influenced by who is buying advertising (which would essentially be old-skool payola again).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Frosty Piss (770223)

        if the DJ's only spin songs they've been payed to play, the those who can't pay won't get paid.

        So, how is that much different than Clear Channel or the majority of stations out there today? DJs - where there still are any - don't pick the songs anymore.

        • by ocbwilg (259828)
          So, how is that much different than Clear Channel or the majority of stations out there today? DJs - where there still are any - don't pick the songs anymore.

          Which is why the whole payola thing has started coming up again recently.

          If I'm not mistaken, one of the other issues involved the "independent promoters" going to the record companies and telling them "if you want your songs to get played on the stations that I represent, you'll pay me lots of money". If those "independent promoters" only work w
    • by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope@nOspAm.gmail.com> on Monday June 04, 2007 @11:49PM (#19391649) Homepage Journal
      So there was this guy on trial, he says to the jury "Looks like I have money, you have power, let's talk. We can work something out".

      What's wrong with the above? Money is trading hands between private individuals for mutual exchange, but something the public owns (i.e. the judicial system) is getting used not for the greater good of society, but for individuals. It's the same thing with radio. There's a limited amount of bandwidth the public gives away with knowledge that the owner will use it impartially for playing music. If payola is legal, radio stations may as well be owned by the record companies themselves. If Virgin records had a radio station, they'd use it to shamelessly promote their own artists. This isn't so hypothetical since Virgin does in fact own a satellite radio station, but that's OK, since in so doing, they are not using up the limited public bandwidth.

      This is a little abstract now that most radio stations are owned by Clear Channel and have no claim to independence, but this was originally meant to allow some separation and moderation between the consumer and the record companies, while allowing new artists and record companies to have low barriers to entry. There's still college radio stations, pacifica radio, and NPR stations, but aside from that, unfortunately non-bias in exchange for public goods does seem to have gone with the times.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by laffer1 (701823)
      Yes, but if radio stations take bribes and play one song more often then other songs get less (or no) playtime. This does hurt the consumer because there might be a new song from a good artist that I might be interested in. For instance, say U2 releases a new album and single. Instead of U2, some new boy band group with no talent gets played constantly. Now I have to listen to crap or bring an iPod with me in the car. I shouldn't have to subscribe to a service or get an HD radio to listen to something
    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      Pardon my naivety, but exactly what is so "immoral" about it? I've never really understood that. "I've got a radio station. You've got a song. Let's talk." Seems perfectly natural to me.

      Natural, yes. Immoral, yes. They were (are) lying to their listeners, by saying that particular songs are popular. The various "Top-XX" are supposedly of sales, or requests from listeners. When in fact their rankings were often simply purchased by the record companies.

      If you say no harm was done, consider that artists

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stephanruby (542433)
      "If everybody hates the song, they're still going to hate it no matter how many times it gets aired. "

      Obviously, you're not as weak-willed as I am. I once bought a tape from "The New Kids on the Block". This is not something I'll admit to in public circles, but nevertheless -- it did happen.

      Another time, when I was in France I bought a stupid CD made from a toddler singing complete nonsense, his proud parents owned most of the radio stations in France -- so you can bet their stupid little kid got const
      • by epine (68316) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:50AM (#19394085)
        This is completely true. In my town one of the local DJs went AWOL from the payola program and played some songs from a new release he personally really liked and then the local demand for that artist went through the roof, nearly costing that DJ his job. It's still the only town I know of where people call in to request that artist.

        There are limits to how bad/good something can be before manipulation is no longer an important factor, though an obscure artist can be popular among a niche group on the basis of exception material without making much money.

        It's extremely easy to do the math on how much promotion matters? How much money, time, and effort is invested in it? Lots. Especially concerning the teenage and young adult demographic, the group most determined to assert their independence.

        Then you can ask yourself "how much is my hypothetical unbiased choice really worth to me?" With some determination, it is possible to apply your own criteria to your purchases, but it is an enormous amount of work, often for little gain. When I've done this with my technical purchases, it never works to my advantage. Even if you get your carefully researched order accepted, it comes back the next day "actually, we can't get part X for another three weeks, how about spiffy mainstream part Y?" and you debate that, and then it comes back "part U has gone out of production, but we can part V with almost exactly the same part number that replaces it". Anyone remember the DLINK 530TX and the DLINK 530TX+? The "plus" part swaps out the Via Rhine controller for a RealTek controller. Or you get the Dell effect where what appeared to be an excellent panel turns out to have different guts than when it was reviewed. Or you go to your favorite vendor's web site and find 200 different video cards listed, all sort of the same, yet different. Small differences, such as a card promising 350MHz RAMDACs on each head, but then in the fine print limiting the second head to 60Hz refresh as resolutions greater than a megapixel. Plus the particular glitch you need to avoid is a constantly moving target. Early on in the PCI era, there was a series of disk controllers with an internal one byte overwrite problem that were guaranteed to corrupt your disk with any kind of software write-behind disk cache enabled. Of all the machines for sale, only a small fraction listed enough specs. to determine whether this chip was present or not. Reading PC Magazine cover to cover with a magnifying glass to the fine print in every full page system ad gives you a whole new perspective on not having a life.

        This isn't limited to technology, either. Eliminating unwanted food inputs from your diet is far more work than it needs to be. I once naively bought a bag of Cargo Cult cinnamon without reading the list of ingredients. I get it home and discover it contains a hydrogenated oil, probably as a flow agent. Not only that, it was coarse and barky and lacking in essential oils. As fast as you figure who not to trust, the old villians are recycled again, like the furniture store that has gone out of business every two years on the same premise for as long as you can recall.

        You don't discover the true power of the system until you attempt to swim against the grain. Even if there are reviews out there entirely free from payola influence, you have to work to figure out which ones those are. The system is not designed to stop you from swimming in the currents of self-determination, just to wear you out.

        It would be very easy from a technical perspective in the grocery retail sector to have a GUID embedded on each item of merchandise that links to a database with ingredients and disclaimers (may contains traces of peanut) and to provide shoppers with a little handheld device they can point at the GUID, and configure with a profile of desired or undesired attributes (no bad oils, no excessive sodium, etc.) and a big red light and a nasty buzzer and a speak generation system that barks "Crap! Crap! Crap!" as you strol
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ocbwilg (259828)
        Now I don't know where you live, or what kind of music you listen to, but I find it hard to believe that you've never been influenced in your music selections, or that you don't know anyone out of your friends or family members that haven't been influenced (or made temporarily insane) by constant air play repetition.,br>
        While this may not have been understood scientifically at the time it is very much possible to influence people in very subtle ways with repeated exposure to certain stimuli. I'm not
    • by jimicus (737525)
      If quality had the remotest bearing on marketability of a song, there would be no such thing as Britney Spears.

      Instead, there would be a wide range of genuine artists who spend their time and energy writing songs, playing instruments and singing.
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday June 04, 2007 @11:06PM (#19391275) Homepage Journal
    I've always been a bit annoyed that hardware review sites almost always get cherry picked engineering samples to test. Normally this isn't a big deal, but they always test the overclockability of hardware these days (I swear Ars, HotHardware, HardOCP, and the like would overclock hard drives if they could) which is fairly pointless with a sample size of 1. Worse, they have no way of testing if that overclocking is going to cause the hardware to fizzed out after 2 months. They also rarely include factors like "will the manufacturer maintain driver support 3 months down the road and fix the bugs in the current driver?" which is far more important than clocking it up to 105% and running Supreme Commander.

    I know I'm being a little unfair here, but it's one of the main reasons that I rarely bother with hardware review sites anymore unless I'm actively looking to buy a particular piece of hardware. Well, that and their tendency to spread articles out over hundreds of pages with as little content as possible on each page.

    A good example of this is the 120 page article on Core2Duo heatsinks posted to Slashdot a few days ago. At no point did the hardware review guys examine the fans to see if they were bottom of the barrel "will die in 6 months" models, or if they were high quality fans worth the $50 price tag on the cooling solution.
    • Ah yeah - I bought an Asus P5W DH motherboard last August after reading tremendous reviews all over about how well the worked with the new Conroe cpu's. Then it turned out they couldn't boot with retail Conroes because they had only been tested with engineering sample cpu's. Asus told people to buy a $50 Celerons to boot and then change Bios to accept retail cpu's - sort of a "let them eat cake" attitude . People went nuts, and then Asus said it would mail people a new Bios chip for $25. People went nuts ag
    • I once overclocked my ethernet card.

      at the time, getting 11Mbps was pretty good!

      and you're right - I had to have special LANCE controllers to achieve that speed. its true. most could only go to 10.5.
    • Well, that and their tendency to spread articles out over hundreds of pages with as little content as possible on each page.

      they have plenty of (paid for) content on those pages! the more pages they provide, the more (paid ad's) they can show. They (review sites) seem to think we don't need the scrollbar on our browsers these days!
    • Overclocking hard drives you say?

      Before northbridges were smart enough to lock down the PCI clock to 33mhz, overclocking of the IDE bus was the norm (since IDE controllers derived their clock from the PCI bus). All that mattered was what you could get away with. I found that IBM's were usually very tolerant of extra-chippy IDE speed, whereas maxtors usually fell flat on their face at around 111-114mhz fsb (going from 100mhz, of course). Your mileage may have varied.
    • This is why I never trust reviews that receive free hardware from companies. Just the act of getting free hardware to review constitutes payola in my opinion. The only reviews you can really trust are the independents that buy their own hardware from the same outlets as everyone else.
  • by chromozone (847904) on Monday June 04, 2007 @11:14PM (#19391331)
    I found many reviews to be very unreliable for the most part and stopped reading them. Monitor reviews are especially bad imo. Rarely will a reviewer even mention what type of panel it is (TN, S-IPS, S-PVA etc)and that's an irregularity in my view because cheap panels like the TN's get the same or better ratings as the usually superior S-IPS panels (which look obvioulsy different to anyone with 30 seconds instruction). Dell and Samsung seem to always get positive reviews. Then some riot ensues in the forums likes when Dell had banding issues. In the past year Dell has ben swapping inferior panels into displays after they already got reviews with superior panels. The forums are full of "Dell Lottery" posts and thread threads complining about buying one monitor and essentially getting another. After months of this, I think I have seen it mentioned once in an article in the may sites I see visit. Dell ads are flashing on the sides of most of these sites. Reviews seem to be becoming an extension of manufacturers marketing just like TV and print news always seem to be inserting the latest entertainment product made by the ABC, FOX etc. I find the best way to see it good reviews are merited is to follow how the forums react.
    • Be careful with this. I've found many "reviews" in the forums to be nothing more than astroturfing. Fortunately, the people doing the astroturfing are usually really, really bad at it, blatantly shilling the products in question, and that makes them pretty easy to spot.

      Not that I want to give away all my tells, but if a posting is 100% positive with absolutely no flaws, there's very little chance of the post being fair. Every product has flaws or deficiencies of some nature, and a poster who can't find

  • by bobby1234 (860820)
    All English speaking countries except Australia....8->

    Who was expecting honesty from the land of convicts down under...

    or maybe we are better at smelling a setup...
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:36AM (#19392319)

    Then the source showed me an invoice for the same game, this one from
    IGN/Gamespy. What Gamespot calls a gumball, Gamespy calls, less charmingly, a "Gamespy Spotlight". But the content and the principle is basically the same: the Spotlights are those thumbnail screenshot links that you see on the site's front page. "What you're looking at on the front page is not what the editors decided is the best game," the media buyer informed me.
    Source: kotaku.com [kotaku.com] - They actually have a whole section on ethics [kotaku.com] including one bribe [kotaku.com] that I'm sure is utterly reasonable.
  • I recently purchased an alarm system from a popular web site called the Home Security Store. Not only do I feel their recommendations steered me away from better products for my application, but I've had a hellish time with their support. I've also submitted reviews for products to the web site and they apparently weren't approved, possibly because I didn't give the products a glowing review. The site also operates a whole slew of other domains pointing to different IP addresses which are basically the s
  • A whitewash (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eukariote (881204) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:55AM (#19393209)

    The rot is far deeper. This article vastly understates the problem: there are so many levers manufacturers can pull in order to influence or bias reviews, payola is only the start of it. Development of corrupt benchmark software used by the review sites can be bought, biased compilers (Intel compiler) generate some of the code being benched, advertisement money can be withheld or expanded, early or free samples can be provided or denied.

    The review sites, in turn, can do a lot to make review seem fair while applying a subtle bias. They can limit themselves to certain benchmarks, (de)emphasize or arbitrarily weigh some results, frame the the article, or spin the conclusion.

    It is not hard to see this in action. Take the pervasive and saturating Core 2 hype on all sites, last year, for example. Many sites were running the same biased selection of benchmarks. Nearly all sites avoided 64-bit benchmarks.

    I would like to see a bootable Linux benchmark CD that runs stock GCC compiled code in 32 and 64-bit mode and provides various workload, scalability, and throughput tests. Something that is open and runs precisely the same code on all machines. Something anyone can pop in his own PC or laptop. But then, even if that were to exist, would the sites start to report that benchmark in their reviews?

  • by Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:57AM (#19393217) Homepage
    The German-language 'PC-Professionell' (they belonged to Ziff-Davis back then) used to always carry a full-page advert for 'Waibel' computers on the back cover. Inside the magazine, they would review various hardware and Waibel *always* got the editor's choice award. The way I remember it, even if they were not reviewing any other PCs they would still review the finest offering from Waibel so they could rave about it. As far as I remember, other Ziff-Davis magazines did the same but it is PC-Pro I really noticed.

    Another computer magazine called C't also reviewed Waibel hardware once or twice. In the last review they gave, they indicated the hardware was ok at best (I think they were overclocking) but that the XP Licenses were illegal - something they got Microsoft to confirm. This was in late 2002. Waibel ceased trading in January 2003.

    I am sure that Waibel paying for full-page back-cover adverts, and the rave-reviews inside were just a coincidence.

    Quoting the DailyTech article: Once presented with the data for this article, Schnieder paused before responding. "I think if you look back even five years, you would have seen this type of thing be much more common than it is today." He concludes, "Like most things, the marketplace will eventually weed out the businesses and websites who choose to operate in this manner."
    Waibel closed. I occasionally look at a PC-Professionell nowadays but I can't see any obvious weighting in their reviews so hopefully the company works differently nowadays - almost 5 years later.
  • The Sun rose this morning.

    Slow news day ?
  • by Media_Scumbag (217725) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @04:57AM (#19393545)
    To the show that never ends
    So glad you could attend
    Come inside
    Come inside

    I quit journalism because I got pressure to favor advertisers' products. I had the Exec Editor of a trade print publication attribute my name to a press release and it was called a "review." I told her that if she did it again, I'd sue for defamation of character. \

    For related reasons about the integrity of the mag, I quit.

    That was 2000. I can do more good as a poster than a writer...

    =D
  • Bribes can take many forms in today's business world, especially with magazines and webpages that depend on good relationships with the ones they criticise or just report about.

    There's tech sites that need "(p)review samples". Think you'll get a preview from EA if you tossed their last piece into the gutter with your review? They will certainly NOT give you a preview of their latest if you honestly said that their last top game stunk like old limburger. And that in turn means that you can't compete with oth
  • Try Maximum PC (Score:3, Informative)

    by schwit1 (797399) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:14AM (#19394591)
    They will call junk 'junk'.

    http://www.maximumpc.com/ [maximumpc.com]

  • by smchris (464899) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:27AM (#19394733)
    One of my favorite personal sayings, "I've been around computers so long I can remember when non-Microsoft products were PC Magazine's "office applications of the year".

  • by rlp (11898) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:54AM (#19394977)
    First read the glowing reviews of the product on several tech sites. Then type the name of the product into Google followed by the word "sucks". Read those "reviews". The truth is normally somewhere in between.
  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:06AM (#19395105)
    I've been writing for both print and online mags for 15+ years and have never been hassled by a supplier over a bad review or been offered anything for a good review (UK based). Most editors I've worked for have been very clear about working to a 'ad dept does not talk to editorial' policy.
    I've often been told about how much US editorial is 'bought' but wasn't aware it was so endemic globally.
    The closest I've ever come to any possibility of being bought is that some manufacturers let you keep the hardware/software and some insist on having it back after the review period. In recent years this has shifted to the latter in the UK due to changes in tax law that prevent review kit from being treated as tax deductible.
    • Most editors I've worked for have been very clear about working to a 'ad dept does not talk to editorial' policy.



      You can usually guess that such a policy is in place when you read an article about the negative impact of Chinese gold farmers in WoW and see a "Buy WoW gold here" ad on the next page.


      And that's just one example. This argument has been used often to weasel out of discussions about ads that are disliked by a majority of the readership.

  • It's not the manufacturer who goes in saying "how much ad space do we need to buy to make sure you guys give us a glowing review?"

    It's that if they buy a bunch of ad space and the product gets a mediocre to bad review they cut back. The sales guy asks them why, they say "You guys kinda trashed us, and we want to focus our advertising in friendlier environments".

    At that point the sales guy goes to the VP's of the magazine, who pressure the editors , and POOF next product gets better review.

    It's not as simpl

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