Thursday, September 17, 2009

To pay or not to pay this is the question

Product reviews are absolutely critical to the success or failure of a product and that is especially true in the software world. Trying a software product takes effort and precious time so we all naturally gravitate towards relying on product reviews that others have done and only take the time to try one or two products that may have been heavily and positively reviewed.

Knowing how important those reviews are we have sent tenths of product review requests in the last 6 years and in the process we have learned the unsettling truth about product reviews: they don’t come by easily. In the case of the big guys (technical magazines and large user group sites) you don’t have to pay for the product review per-say but your product will forever be in the queue unless you are shelling out a few thousand advertising dollars in those medias, only then does your product magically shoot up to the top of the product review queue; whereas in the case of the smaller guys (bloggers and user group contributors) you often have to pay for the review anywhere from a set price of as low as $200 for one product review to a per word price that can be as high as $0.6 per word (this is the highest product review offer we have received).

In the case of the big guys since you are not paying directly for the product review there is no moral dilemma – deep down you know that the review can’t possibly be fair and un-biased. If you are paying $30K / year for advertisements on that media the last thing they would want to do is alienate you with a bad product review, but, it’s easy to shun those thoughts, after all this is your product and you truly believe that it is a great product.

On the other hand, when it comes to paying for the review directly it feels like cheating and unfair to the reader who believes that he is reading an impartial review. For it to feel right one must disclose in big bold letters that “this review has been paid for by the product vendor…”, but such disclosure would likely deem the review worthless. Ideally you would want someone to review your product simply because they like the product and they want to share it with other people but in all fairness reviewing a software product and then writing up your observations and conclusions may take hours of work of which we humans have a very limited supply of. Herein lies our dilemma – to pay or not to pay?

Until now we have chosen not to pay, instead we have only offered the reviewers a free license for the product they decide to review which we think is fair and does not present a conflict of interest. We would certainly be more comfortable continuing with this approach but the results are not very promising hence our pondering.

Let us know what you think – would you pay?

And of course, we would be delighted if you would consider reviewing any of our fine products in exchange for a free license.

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