Bad web reviews… where are they?
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine has been a whipping post for thousands of audiophiles over the nearly half-century it’s been around, but I have to say that now we’re big-time on the internet, as well as in print, the lashings are becoming more frequent, and despite many years in the editor’s chair, my skin is no thicker.
You won’t be surprised to learn that of all the criticisms levelled at the magazine, the single most common is that we don’t publish any negative reviews, and that this is obviously because we don’t want to upset our advertisers. Pure internet hi-fi publications, on the other hand, are apparently paragons of virtue… and most especially the ones that don’t accept advertising. ‘ They tell it like it is,’ I am emailed by various correspondents. Firstly, we do publish negative reviews, which I’ve listed in the past, and am not going to do so again here. Instead, I’d like to say that I have yet to see a negative review published by any of the so-called ‘independent’ internet operations that are apparently able to publish what they like because they’re not beholden to advertisers, nor have I ever had my attention drawn to one by any of my correspondents. Am I wrong? Then please use the email address below to send me the links to all those negative reviews… it can’t be that hard, there should be hundreds of them out there. Call me a cynic, but I’m not expecting them a deluge!
The second most common criticism of Australian Hi-Fi Magazine’s equipment reviews is, contradictorily enough, that we make too many negative comments about features and/or controls that are missing or don’t work properly or are badly-positioned, too many negative comments about poor-quality manuals, and too many negative comments about build quality. So, from where I see it, we’re simultaneously being castigated for not publishing any negative reviews at the same time that we’re being castigated for making negative comments in those self-same reviews. I think I’m missing something here…
Another widely-held misconception is that Australian HiFi Magazine will only review a product if the importer or distributor is also an advertiser. Like all great rumours, this one is also completely and demonstrably false. So why don’t you see some brands in the magazine? Some importers/distributors/ manufacturers don’t want us to review their products, because they don’t want to run the risk getting a bad review. Others don’t want us reviewing their products because they don’t have Australian electrical safety approval for them… which of course we’d mention in the review, which would get them into hot water with the authorities. And, funnily enough, a few won’t loan us products for review because they say that because they have no intention of ever advertising in the magazine, they don’t think they should benefit from one of our reviews (which cost them nothing). But my all-time favourite ‘bad review’ story concerns a certain managing director who telephoned and spent five minutes abusing me about a bad review before I could get a word in edgewise. ‘ Hang on Alex [not the famous one],’ I said, ‘ why are you complaining… the product reviewed isn’t one of yours.’ ‘ No it isn’t,’ he replied, ‘ but bad reviews make the whole industry look bad, so I don’t like seeing them, even if it’s a bad review for a competitor.’
greg borrowman [firstname.lastname@example.org]