There’s an ongoing soap opera between one website and ATI public relations over who gets to go to what and under what conditions.
I’m not going to even bother linking to the complaining, because it’s a waste of time. You read for a while, then you give up, because no one comes across too admirably.
One can nitpick as to which act or actor is worse than another, but it’s like picking out the grossest turd in the middle of a sewer. The whole system stinks; it’s not just one or a few companies/websites.
The sad reality of the review process is that it is mostly and merely a corporate marketing tool hiding behind a facade of independence.
The independence is a facade because one party is much stronger than the other. So long as the corporation can effectively shut a media outlet down by withholding product, comment by that media will be generally be compromised.
Imagine the New York Times theatre critic being banned for six months from Broadway due to a bad review. Imagine the New York Times being banned from the White House because the lead correspondent chose not to attend a particular briefing.
You don’t see such things happening simply because the New York Times is too big to be shut down that way. Indeed, if such a thing were to happen, even their competitors would scream bloody murder, simply due to “Today, them; tomorrow, me.”
The playing field is much less level here.
The Subtle Slants
It’s not that every review is doomed to be a fanboy article. Any public relations unit worth it’s weight knows that a little occasional criticism must be tolerated to allow for credibility in some circles, just as any good special interest group realizes that a politician they back will not vote for their side every single time.
No, it’s often more subtle than that. You find the corporate effect in tone, in spin, in providing a positive sound bite whether deserved or not.
And mind you, this happens even when not a single word is exchanged about the matter. When you figuratively bring an 800-pound gorilla into the room for a meeting, you don’t have to tell the other participant(s), “He can kill you.”
People self-censor; they tone down the negative and emphasize the positive. A few even seem to write in a sort of code inbetween the lines of a review to indicate to the more astute what the reviewer really thinks of the product.
It’s no wonder that many readers confine themselves to just look at the numbers (and well, that’s just a different field of manipulation).
And yes, occasionally someone may delude himself into thinking he’s a gorilla, too, and start threatening the gorilla, but that’s like getting high, climbing into the gorilla cage, and start punching. Natural selection tends to take care of such folks.
The Solution We’ll Never See
The only way you’ll get truly independent reviews will be for the corporations to cut out the samples, and let anybody who reviews the product buy the thing.
Unfortunately, the universe won’t be around long enough for us to see this happen voluntarily.
The corporations will never say yes because this will cut off their left marketing genital. They don’t want honesty; they want sales.
The reviewers will never say yes because it will put most of them out of business.
Most importantly, though, most in the audience don’t seem to particularly care. A large proportion of the sales aren’t rational to begin with; if you buy on fantasy or allegiance, what do you care about reality?
One could always set up something like a Consumer Reports, a place that buys all its equipment, but realistically, you’d have to pay for the reviews, and they’ll always show up later than the corporate sponsored blurbs.
One could legislate a better system, but really, what government is going to do that?
Ultimately, one gets the system one deserves, and so long as the audience accepts what we have today, that’s what we’ll keep getting.
You can’t clean out the stables when the inhabitants look at you funny and say, “What smell?”