Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reviewing Review Policies on TravelPost and TripAdvisor

Lost in the Royal Champions' controversy, in which Royal Caribbean organized and wooed this group of frequent cruise-reviewers, is the fact that a lot of review websites these days incentivize reviewers to pen their opinions.
As I wrote here a few days ago, I oppose the practice of review compensation.
Now, as it turns out, Kayak-owned TravelPost, in its quest to give TripAdvisor a run for its media dollars, is aggregating and posting user reviews from some sites that compensate their reviewers.
To its credit, Travelpost itself doesn't compensate people who write reviews for TravelPost. And, neither does TripAdvisor pay reviewers.
But, TravelPost is partnering with sites, including IgoUgo,, and , that compensate reviewers to varying degrees.
IgoUgo offers reviewers Go Points from American Airlines and Amazon; Epinions provides a revenue share; and makes reviewers eligibile for a $1,000 gift card.
TravelPost provides a way for consumers to filter in or out the source of TravelPost reviews.
But TravelPost, which says it values transparency, should provide explicit information for consumers about the review policies of its partners.
In that way, consumers would be able to make up their own minds about whether they should read or disregard reviews from incentivized critics.
It would only enhance TravelPost's reputation if it does so.


Anonymous said...

Did Cruise Critic Cross an Ethical Line?
While I'm not a legal expert, I wonder if Cruise Critic's participation in this activity in some way might violate FTC regulations. Cruise Critic's management, in defense of their behavior, is claiming all it did was to provide their advertiser and marketing partner, RCCL, the contact information for those in to be invited to the Royal Champions Program;. Who are they kidding? Cruise Critic in addition knowingly published reviews and comments from this group and, according to a Cruise Critic bulletin board post (since removed from the site) from their Community Manager, both the Community Manager and Cruise Critic's Editor met with a large group of Royal Champions aboard one of the free incentive cruises. So, at the very least, Cruise Critic demonstrated a total disregard for their users who might have been misled by these posts, while creating an uneven playing field to the detriment of cruise lines other than RCCL. This seems to flaunt stated Trip Advisor policy, so it would be good to hear from them on this matter. And, as a public company, I wonder as well if Expedia, corporate parent of both Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor, may be liable for behavior that could be considered detrimental to their shareholders.

Darren Cronian said...

The RCL story has certainly generated some discussion on reviews. If the site is up front and honest that they have compensated people for postitive or "honest" reviews then that's fine. I would not necessary trust the reviews though, and it's the trust element that I think is really important.