"Incentivized" shill reviews now banned on Amazon

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/10/04/incentivized-shill-reviews.html


I just knew this day would come.

[note sarcasm]


So “prohibit” means “take our cut.”


Are they going to remove all the old incentivized reviews cluttering up the place? Or is this just new reviews?


Yes, but it’s a little more complicated than that. I heard an NPR piece about the Vine program a while back and the gist of it was that it is good for Amazon to have reviews, period. People are more likely to buy things that have reviews over items that do not have reviews, even if the reviews are mixed. I find that’s true for myself, because even if there are negative reviews, I can at least find out what people don’t like about something and can make an informed decision about whether those factors would matter for my purposes or preferences.

For various reasons, I’ve lately found myself looking for certain items that have a high percentage of incentivized reviews. Honestly, if they disclose that they receive the product for “free or a reduced cost”, I don’t entirely mind them. It’s better than nothing and according to the study, they skew positive, but not as bad as you might think. It’s the reviews that are straight-up dishonest that really annoy me. Check out the super-cheap smartwatch category for a lot of those.

It was probably on BoingBoing that I saw it, so maybe you’ve already seen it, but fakespot.com is a useful tool.


That’s too bad. As a cat burglar and thief of world renown (INTERPOL calls me “Le Yoink”), I only want to know what products are good enough to have but not pay for.


You burgle cats? You know you can get’em for free, right?


Potato Potahto Spud.


I do mind them because the product is bumped up in rankings based on that star rating and one finds oneself reading each review to discover at the end it’s incentivised, then combing through all the reviews to find that every ***** reviewer is a shill. Impossible to factor those out and come up with a realistic ranking, but I haven’t used fakespot.com so thanks for that reminder/tip!

I think they skew positive very badly because someone with a Hoarders qualified $hit-ton of free products isn’t really going to put the product to rigorous regular use. I am most helped by reviews that are not unboxings, but by someone who’s used the product for 6 weeks by which time the flaws become more apparent and the flaws you thought you could live with become unbearable.


I don’t disagree with you on principle. I qualified my statement (“I don’t entirely mind them”) for a reason. Of course I’d rather have a high-quality review from someone who has used the item for a while (I often wait a while before reviewing things). But a compensated review is better than no review at all. There are plenty of non-compensated reviews that are crap too.

Overall, I think this is a good move from Amazon. The Vine reviewers are chosen through some opaque process, but they are generally folks with an established reputation for decent reviews. So yeah, Amazon is doing what’s best for Amazon, but since what they want is to have happy customers who come back and spend more money, what’s good for Amazon is also good for the customer.

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I logged in just to say I appreciate the fact that you put “incentivized” in quotes . . . since it’s basically a made up, marketing word that breaks English.

One is given an incentive, one is not “incentivized.” SO stupid.


All words are made up.


28 minutes. Was wondering how long that would take.

Hope my tardiness didn’t make it less impactful.


I always marked the ones that seemed over-the-top positive as unhelpful to knock down their ranking.
I usually start with the 3 star reviews and then look at the others if the 3 star ones sound relatively positive.


I never used to review, but lately when I get bored I go back to my old orders and write reviews of things I bought 5 or more years ago (starting the review with ‘I wait 5 years to write reviews. Here’s what I think:’). It’s sort of depressing how many times the review ends up being ‘I bought this 5 years ago and it lasted 2 years before some non-replaceable/non-fixable part broke and now it’s landfill. Buy this if you want to be able to do [function] for a short time at a low price, but not if you want something that won’t be landfill in 5 years’


Shills must go back to having their own stores, like boingboing!

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Why’s that? If someone is given an incentive, they have been incentivized, the same way that if something’s made popular, it’s popularized, and if something’s turned to caramel, it’s caramelized. In no way does it “break English”.


Shouldn’t the headline be: “Disclosing that your shill review was incentivised is now banned on Amazon”?


We get a lot of offers from shill reviewers, but have never used one. I’m glad they’re going away; some of our competitors have used them to great success, and that irritates me. On the other hand, Amazon doesn’t provide us the technology for a full-on sales pitch, and I kind of miss that.

Vine seems like it might fit the bill. Amazon wants these reviewers, but they want them in a sales capacity, not a review capacity. A lot of the well-written shill reviews provide more useful product info than is possible to be provided through Amazon’s product copy and bullet points format. There’s a real need for that information, and Amazon can use these shills as free independent sales reps. As long as they’re not contaminating the actual product reviews, I’m for it.

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