WHAT’S YOUR BEEF?
Writing reviews is a lot like doing a medical examination. The reviewer examines minute slices of a business, service, movie or book, analyzes the contents, and either pronounces the patient alive and well or DOA.
With the proliferation of content-oriented websites, there is an ever-increasing demand for reviews and reviewers. Whether you are a happy customer of a particular restaurant, have stayed at a memorable bed-and-breakfast, watched the latest Star Wars movie fifteen times without tiring of it, or read a book you think should make the “best-seller” list this year, your opinion matters. The internet offers you the opportunity to shout it to the world, and in many instances, get paid in the process.
WHAT A REVIEW IS NOT....
First and foremost, a review is not a rant. Nobody wants to read a litany filled with whining, whimpering and the sounds of gnashing teeth. Reviews – positive or negative – require a factual basis for the opinions expressed. In other words, if you hated something, WHY did you hate it? What specifically turned you off? For example, if you are reviewing a restaurant and you state that you would “never go back again,” give some valid reasons. Were the plates greasy? Were the waiters (or waitpersons for the PC crowd) equally greasy? Did the Muzak selections turn your stomach? Specific facts offer your readers (and the business owner) something tangible to work with. Just listing your feelings without backing them up with facts just makes the writer look like a crank.
Second, a review should make an attempt at fairness. Every reviewer is biased to some degree, but as a journalist, should willingly admit to those predispositions within the context of the review. Biases influence opinions, and one person’s meat may be another person’s poison. For example, if a reviewer absolutely loves curry, their review of the new Indonesian restaurant in town will differ dramatically than that of the reviewer whose mainstay is McDonalds fries. Owning up to preferences within the review takes those preferences into account, and readers who share those preferences can assess how much weight they choose to give to those preferences in making a decision about the product or service.
Also, there is nothing that is all good or all bad; writing a judicious review involves noting the saving graces of an overall bummer experience, or pointing out what may be a fly in the ointment of an otherwise superlative situation. Forewarned is always forearmed, and the reader who is apprised of what to expect will find his or her experience more enjoyable or less frustrating.
WHO QUALIFIES AS A REVIEWER?
Too many writers believe they have to be an “expert” to write reviews. Wrong! Any average consumer can be a reviewer.
The audience targeted by review websites is comprised of consumers who have varying degrees of expertise, and they will appreciate hearing from people who have varying perspectives on a subject. For example, a woodworking beginner may want to purchase the Super-Zowie Router he saw advertised on late-night television, but after reading reviews from other nonprofessional woodworkers that imply the tool is not user-friendly, that interest may wane dramatically. If the only reviews of the Super-Zowie were professional woodworkers (who may be able to work around the flaws of a non-user-friendly tool), the beginner who purchases the Super-Zowie is doomed to disappointment. If the reviews are going to be read by experts, of course, the writer must be an established expert in the field. Otherwise, any ordinary person with the gifts of analysis and communication can write reviews.
WHO NEEDS REVIEWS?
Among the websites that take reviews of products are Epinion.com and Amazon.com. Epinion.com allows reviewers to join for free, and offers a small payment to the reviewer for every person who says a review was helpful to them.
Insiderpages.com offers incentives for reviews of businesses, and is actively seeking reviewers across the United States. Some of the incentives offered are Starbucks gift cards and cash payments for writing a certain quota of reviews within a given timeframe.
Reviews of television programs and movies are sought by a number of webmasters, and can be posted on-line at Constant-Content.com. Reviews of interest are purchased by webmasters, with the author receiving payment for their work and in most cases, a byline.
So, any writer with an opinion needs to put pen to paper (or mouse to pad) and start writing! Wouldn’t it be fun to make a profit for letting the world know what you really think?