Camera - - WHAT’S NEW - Has­sel­blad prod­ucts are dis­trib­uted in Aus­tralia by C.R. Kennedy & Com­pany and for more in­for­ma­tion visit www.has­sel­ Paul Bur­rows, Ed­i­tor.

IN THE LAST GLOBAL reader sur­vey con­ducted by TIPA (which in­cluded us, of course), a frac­tion un­der 91 per­cent of re­spon­dents cited pho­tog­ra­phy magazines as their chief source of in­for­ma­tion and rated them ahead of the In­ter­net, trade fairs and spe­cial­ist re­tail­ers in terms of trust­wor­thi­ness. Now, as these peo­ple are all read­ers of photo magazines, this re­sult isn’t en­tirely sur­pris­ing, but it still un­der­lies the value of in­de­pen­dent and rep­utable ed­i­to­rial con­tent pro­duced by highly ex­pe­ri­enced and re­spected jour­nal­ists.

The Week­end Aus­tralian Magazine’s food writer and restau­rant critic, John Leth­lean, has now penned sev­eral col­umns and spo­ken on the ra­dio about the grow­ing scourge of blog­gers and so-called ‘in­flu­encers’ pre­tend­ing to be fair-dinkum re­view­ers when they’re es­sen­tially be­ing paid – in one way or an­other – for their com­ments which, nat­u­rally, are al­ways pos­i­tive. Leth­lean calls it “the murky, knuckle-drag­ging on­line quid pro quo publishing scene with zero grasp of in­de­pen­dent com­men­tary”… which is a pretty suc­cinct sum-up of the sit­u­a­tion. It’s par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic in the restau­rant busi­ness, fash­ion and travel, but it hap­pens in ev­ery con­sumer mar­ket and it can be very hard to pick the gen­uine re­view from one that’s been fab­ri­cated in re­turn for some sort of pay­ola. The num­ber of likes, friends, fol­low­ers or what­ev­ers is no in­di­ca­tor of in­tegrity or in­de­pen­dence – and cer­tainly not of ex­per­tise or ex­pe­ri­ence – yet it’s in­creas­ingly touted as be­ing a mea­sure of some­thing im­por­tant or even valu­able. It’s seen as the quick way to an au­di­ence, but it’s re­ally all smoke and mir­rors be­cause just how much of that au­di­ence is ac­tu­ally en­gaged or even real is im­pos­si­ble to ver­ify. It’s also a com­par­a­tively cheap way to an au­di­ence – even one that’s mostly myth­i­cal – if all you have to do is pro­vide a free meal, prod­uct or ser­vice. Ad­ver­tis­ing that de­liv­ers quan­tifi­able re­sults is rather more ex­pen­sive be­cause it does just that… gets re­sults.

John Leth­lean writes, “… this stuff is part of an ever-erod­ing drip of col­lu­sion and cor­rup­tion that over time has led to a be­lief out there in the real world that this is how it’s all ac­tu­ally done… those who present them­selves as ‘guides’ who are ac­tu­ally just pack­ag­ing mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial… a cosy lit­tle ar­range­ment for all that pro­vides no mean­ing­ful di­rec­tion to con­sumers what­so­ever”.

In our busi­ness, the on­line world is full of so-called equip­ment re­view­ers, a tiny hand­ful of whom ac­tu­ally pro­vide a dis­clo­sure of any al­le­giances which could pos­si­bly have a bear­ing on their com­ments. A lot don’t and yet their “breath­less pos­i­tive ex­po­sure” (to quote Leth­lean again) is sup­pos­edly cred­i­ble and likely to in­flu­ence buy­ing de­ci­sions. In so­cial me­dia there are even fewer checks and bal­ances so, as is seen quite reg­u­larly, any­body can say any­thing with­out any at­tri­bu­tion, ver­i­fi­ca­tion or re­search. Sort­ing fact from fic­tion – or the merely fan­ci­ful – is an im­pos­si­bil­ity. The thing is, though, I sus­pect con­sumers, even the less well-in­formed ones, are start­ing to wake up to all of this and ap­ply a finer-meshed scep­ti­cism fil­ter. Hope­fully then, the days of sham en­dorse­ments are num­bered.

Camera magazine has been around since 1979 and many oth­ers in pho­tog­ra­phy for a lot longer. But none of us would have sur­vived even a few months if we weren’t per­ceived as firstly, be­ing any­thing less than com­pletely in­de­pen­dent and se­condly, pro­fi­cient in our cho­sen area of ex­per­tise. The re­al­ity is that qual­ity ed­i­to­rial ac­tu­ally costs money to cre­ate, which is why it can never be bought or com­pro­mised, and why it will al­ways achieve more ef­fec­tive out­comes than sim­ply de­liv­er­ing a hand­ful of ‘likes’.

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