There are grumblings in the user generated review world. Newsweek reports that "the expert is back", and Charlotte Beal reports that there is an increase in 'choice fatigue' amongst tourists, and that "the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information". Returning from my Tips From The T-List sponsored blogger workshop at PhoCusWright@ITB, where we focussed on these issues has given me a greater appreciation for the conflict.
I have started to hear an increase in frustration with false reviews and bad information with UGC review sites like TripAdvisor. The issue is that anyone can write a review about a property even if they have not been to the property, this opens up the opportunity for abuse, and when abuse does happen, (which it does) these sites don't remove the offending posts. (Example)
These fraudulent reviews have a ripple effect, they directly effect the slighted property, and if the false reviews are identified, they lower the credibility of the entire user generated review process. This places me in a juxtaposition, I know that independent reviews are going to offer an authentic, unbiased overview; and that expert travel reviews, in most cases, are financed by the property itself, thus completely eliminating the authenticity of the review.
What can we do? All travel companies should embrace every open review platform, get involved in the reviews and see them as a learning opportunity. If you have something to hide, then you shouldn't be in the travel business.
How are we going to ensure the authenticity of the reviews? Can we add receipt verification / proof of purchase? Or how about a verified online ID? Where if you want to write a review, you have to have a verified ID, thus making you accountable for all that you wright. This may open the door to more spam and identity theft, but how do we make people accountable for what they write.
I believe in the democratization of content, and that when people write reviews under false pretenses or write fraudulent reviews it ruins the system for everyone. What will the future look like? I agree that there will always be a place for expert opinion and content, but that we will strengthen the user generated content until it can be authenticated and trustworthy. What do you see as the future?
March 12, 2008
Posted by Philip Caines at 4:00 PM