According to this article (HT: Messiah College colleague John Fea’s lovely Sunday Night Odds and Ends column), many of the reviews on internet sites like Amazon, Yelp, etc. are not authentic and may have been written by reviewers who never read the book or stayed in the hotel they are reviewing. They are simply being paid to give a good review. How many? No one knows for sure, but researchers are trying to figure that out. Here is a taste:
In tens of millions of reviews on Web sites like Amazon.com, Citysearch, TripAdvisor and Yelp, new books are better than Tolstoy, restaurants are undiscovered gems and hotels surpass the Ritz.
Or so the reviewers say. As online retailers increasingly depend on reviews as a sales tool, an industry of fibbers and promoters has sprung up to buy and sell raves for a pittance.
“For $5, I will submit two great reviews for your business,” offered one entrepreneur on the help-for-hire site Fiverr, one of a multitude of similar pitches. On another forum, Digital Point, a poster wrote, “I will pay for positive feedback on TripAdvisor.” A Craigslist post proposed this: “If you have an active Yelp account and would like to make very easy money please respond.”
Check out the rest for the progress being made on deciphering the difference, and the work yet to be done. (Including suggestions on how to guess which reviews are actually more reliable!)