Back in the day, magazines reviewed kit, lots of it. The best of them set exacting standards as they realised that readers wanted a detailed, credible, truthful process with a firm conclusion.
It was expensive to fund, involving multiple days of work. But it was a worthwhile investment. Magazines recouped the cost by justifying a cover price that readers were willing to pay for good, honest advice. Indirectly, readers (the consumers) paid for the review process.
The digital age changed this formula. Consumers were, in sufficient numbers, unwilling to pay for the same information online.
A new model developed: review sites had to look to advertising for supporting the same rigorous review process as consumers (and brands) still expected, rightfully, that these exacting review standards were maintained. This has proved a knotty problem for some as the linking of advertising and reviews has undermined the trustworthiness of the reviews to both the makers and sellers, of and of course to the purchasers of the product.
Now, we have a less credible model: review sites swamped by advertising; fewer product reviews because it is just too damned costly to maintain the volume; a commercial, rather than editorial, focus upon reviewing products that either generate web traffic or advertising; ‘affiliate marketing’ that means reviews are published alongside a list of retailers that can supply the product and, in turn, these retailers pay a fee back to the magazine when they sell something.
The result is that we have moved towards reviews being indirectly funded by these retailers.
Not on the High Street
For some, this isn’t great – especially those retailers who do not have a high profile online presence. Think traditional specialist retailers with a business model based on personal service and demonstration, serving a local community. These are excluded from the process because they just can’t compete. The same is true for some of the niche brands (and some not so niche) who rely upon these really important, smart specialist retailers for sales.
To be blunt, affiliate marketing favours big brands with a large volume of search traffic that sell through online-savvy retailers, creating a huge digital shop window with unlimited choice. Well, only up to a point Lord Copper…
A change is gonna come
And it’s called Sound Advice. We will not charge the consumer for advice or the retailer for potential sales. Nor will we carry advertising or run any affiliate marketing model for retailers.
Instead, manufacturers can support a product on the site. This will gain them a more prominent coverage and enable them to include additional information alongside the review (the testing process and written review is the same for all) including brochures, videos and they can re-use our reviews for other activities.
This doesn’t change which products we select (recommendations from the independent reviewers) or how they are reviewed but contribution from the brands will enable Sound Advice to be commercially viable and provide the consumer with a completely independent assessment of consumer electronic products currently available.
Sound Advice is a fairer and more credible reviewing process. One that can be trusted by consumers, retailers, and brands.
We’re more than happy to talk through the process in more detail with anyone: consumers, brands, retailers etc. Just ping us a note and we’ll get back to you.
* if you are interested... The header image does have relevance: Thomas Alva Edison, beside "working for quite some time on a machine that would allow the user to communicate with the dead”, knew a thing or two about reviewing hi-fi; here he is around 1877 giving the first phonograph a work out, theforerunner to the gramophone, record player and turntable.