|I am tired of reading blogs that tell you that everyone except themselves are corrupt and everyone just recommends stuff they have an interest in. Salesmen, of course, recommend only what they make the most money on, and magazine endorse any product if the manufacturers advertise enough or pay a bribe. |
Not only isn't this true - it makes no sense. Of course a bad salesman in a crappy store might do that. And a fly-by-night magazine may do it, but good magazine? Good retailers? No chance.
First let's discuss salesman. Good stores make their money off of repeat customers. Better stores (and I hope we count amongst them) have free return shipping. So any company that doesn't try to make sure that a customer walks out with the best choice of product that they can is just shooting themselves in the foot. Retailers rarely care what you buy. They care that you by it from them, and you walk away happy. Happy customers return and buy more. The big problem for good stores is when a customer wants to buy something that isn't right. While we might gently suggest an alternative, we don't want to get into an argument, and we are just unhappy because we know the customer might be disappointed and blame us.
The only time this breaks down is with stores where the salesperson gets a commission. This means the longer term goals of the company might not be in line with the shorter term goals of a salesperson who has quarterly goals to make. Retailers we like, ourselves included, don't pay sales commissions and that solves that. (N.B. the following added on 1/25/2015). A reader pointed out that this statement isn't fair to the multitude of salespeople who are on commission and strive to do their best for their customers - for the same reason we all do - happy customers are good, repeat customers. He's right and I apologize. While we all have been exposed to bad salesman - the real key I suppose is company policy and company goals. - not commission.
While it is easy to suspect woodworking magazines of requiring payment for a favorable review, it doesn't happen. The reason is simple: Magazines make their money by selling subscriptions and advertising. Readers aren't stupid and if a magazine really was pay for play readers would figure it out and ignore them.
We would happily send just about any tool, or any shop full of tools, to any magazine reviewer in the United States or Canada. Except that since every manufacturer is willing to do the same thing the bribe effect is totally cancelled out. In addition no reputable magazine of any kind allows their editors or writers to accept free stuff, and if they do borrow stuff for a test or an article it's generally understood that there are no strings attached and will be returned or donated when they are done. Otherwise it's just too complicated for everyone.
Most magazine do have columns for mentioning new products. These aren't reviews and they don't have the impact of a recommendation. Even in this case editors print what they want. As manufacturers we can influence content by sending in a relentless stream of new products and press releases, but we can't force them to be printed (and I've tried for years). Editors are happy to look at new products. Sometimes they say send them along, and sometimes they say please no as they have tons of stuff to do and no place to put anything. Sometimes we have something interesting that jumps the queue, most of the time something we think is really interesting falls into the editorial abyss.
The American magazines keep a barrier between the editorial and advertising departments. In general (and I am hopeful this can change) even if a magazine writes a glowing review about a product we sell we don't find out about it until we get our copy in the mail - usually after sales spike, and we are out of stock for reasons we cannot fathom. Sometimes the editors do drop a hint and that way we don't disappoint readers who want the product. But it's always after the magazine has gone to press. English magazines work almost the same way, although we do occasionally get calls from advertising departments saying our product will be in the next issue and would we like to advertise. We don't.
What keeps the magazines honest is you, their readers. Readers aren't stupid, Once readers figure out that a tool recommendation makes no sense based on performance, they start figuring out what's going on, and the few bucks a magazine might make in bribes will kill readership pretty quick. It's just not worth the risk. Even advertisers don't have an advantage. We don't advertise in Fine Woodworking very often, Lee Valley doesn't either (just one large example), but what do you know, both companies get products reviewed and recommended all the time. Even when our products aren't recommended magazines the articles usually explain why and even if I don't agree, it's pretty obvious that taping a couple of Benjamins to the tool when we send it in wouldn't do any good.
Most magazines don't publish bad reviews. While a bad review can be hysterically amusing to read, there are way to many good products to write about and why waste the space on a turkey? From a purely statistical point of view a lot of good products never get written about either. Not enough pages on the planet.
While I am sure there might be some magazines with a pay for play policy I haven't found them, they are not influential, you probably don't read them, and they won't last long.
So when you read a good review in a mainstream magazine you can be pretty sure that the magazine writers and editors like the product well enough to write about it, or in the case of announcements they thought the item newsworthy. If you disagree with a review (and gosh knows I do all the time) take a look at the review and figure out why. It's more than possible that the features of the tool that you find important aren't the same ones as an editor finds important. Just because their conclusion isn't the same as yours doesn't mean anyone was paid off. They weren't.
The blogosphere seems a different matter. According to the law if a blogger accepts a product for free, or for payment, they have to disclose it. Some do, unfortunately many do not. In the woodworking world, just by reading the blogs it's pretty easy to see which blogs are pay for play so I don't need to tell you here.
I get asked to write blogs on this or that all the time, or just publish a press release. I don't. I do try to write about new products, but just like a magazine my creditability depends on material that rings true. Otherwise you wouldn't both to read it. I have written blogs based on suggestions from other people, but it's because I find the subject interesting. Now I am writing a series on diamond sharpening. Why am I writing it? Because we just started stocking DMT and I need to learn about the stones so I can write product descriptions and answer questions. The series of blogs is about my testing and how it will effect my approach to sharpening. My suggestions on stone selection apply to me. I think they also apply to many of you but not necessarily. Part of my testing is so I can figure out what we should recommend to customers. But our general recommendations might have little to do with your actual situation. We stock a lot more permutations of diamond stones than anyone needs, myself included, and there are whole sizes of stones that I can't see myself ever wanting but might be appropriate for you. I need to learn enough to recommend the right stuff depending on application. So that's why I am working with diamond stones and why I am writing about them. And yes maybe reading about my testing might help sales. I certainly hope so. But even if it doesn't, long term having good content brings people to the site, lets us recommend equipment appropriately, and leads to sales - or at any rate that's the theory.
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|The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.|