With the holiday shopping season coming up I have been giving a lot of thought to how the internet gets used to support shopping decisions. User generated content certainly has its place but I am increasingly impressed with niche sites that focus on real reviews and buyers guides.
I think long form content written to some sort of standards and by people with a real interest or expertise in a subject is undervalued. We have valued user generated content for two reasons. On the surface we like that it feels authentic. That these are actual consumers who are sharing their experiences out of a genuine interest in providing feedback to consumers and to brands.
But, user generated content of all types and product reviews specifically has a scale issue. They are directionally useful but at scale are prone to moving to the middle and to agendas that do not align with the consumers. A lot of politically motivated reviews reflect this well.
This is not to say that specialized websites and authorities don’t have bias and agendas that diverge from consumers. They certainly do. BUt they also have more economic incentive to produce reliable work to protect their own authority and credibility.