I’m writing this post to clear an earworm. I’m also writing it in response to a number of posts I’ll reference below, but it’s mostly to get EVERYTHING IS AWESOME out of my head:
Everything is Awesome- Except When It Isn’t
My friend Jeff visited Volcano Bay on opening weekend and reported that everything was NOT awesome despite the rosy reviews he saw, well, everywhere. For lowly paying customers rides closed with regularity and the few that remained open suffered from extreme crowds. Not exactly the experience you read about- unless you were lucky enough to find Jeff’s review.
Everything is Awesome- Because You Got it for Free
The rosy reviews came from bloggers attending the media preview. Attending a media preview means:
- They went for free- often including airfare
- The crowds miraculously didn’t exist
- They got tons of great swag
It’s pretty hard NOT to have a great time at a media preview- as Leslie pointed out when visiting Guardians of the Galaxy at Disneyland. However once the crowds arrive the experience radically changes.
No one benefits from PR cut and paste “reviews”. However, it amazes me how many of them pass as legitimate content. The Saverocity Podcast covered hosted reviews in detail and I agree with most of what they said.
Does Hosted = Biased? Yes. But that’s (necessarily) not a bad thing.
The Points Guy, for instance, never tells properties they’re being reviewed in advance so they can reject claims of bias. However, I find TPG to be strongly biased at times towards the experiences of people traveling without kids. Put a family of four in the same hotel room that just got a great review and the experience will be much different. And of course I’m not mentioning that TPG is owned by a credit card marketing company. If that’s not bias, I don’t know what is. That doesn’t mean TPG’s reviews don’t have value, you just need to know their bias(es) in advance.
Other mainstream travel blogs only take paid trips. So their bias shines through: a willingness to please those who write their paycheck. I don’t have a problem with advertorial per se. However I do have a problem with those who disguise it as a review.
I try to walk a fine line in the middle. Look to your right to see Exhibit A: my disclosure is on every single page where you can see it. A very large company recently offered me a space in their (limited) affiliate program but wanted to preview my posts. I turned them down. I also made the decision not to sell credit cards as I didn’t want banks owning editorial control over my content.
That said, I stay for free from time to time and get free stuff when I do. I’m not claiming holy ground here.
But everyone said it was awesome!
I went to Beaches Turks and Caicos a few years ago with 100 other Mom Bloggers. While it wasn’t entirely free, we got a 90% discount. When we got back, as you would expect, 100 reviews hit the interwebs about Beaches Turks and Caicos. They all mentioned the powder soft sand, the relaxation, and some variation of “Everything was Awesome”. How many mentioned that the rooms started at $800/night in low season?
Two. Mine and one that linked to mine.
What’s My Bias?
I mention this not as a humblebrag but because it shows my where my bias lies: value. I have a fundamental aversion to items I view as overpriced and over-hyped. It’s why I’m so sensitive to Vendoming.
You need to know this about me- I will always choose solid and fairly priced over expensive perfection. If you are shopping based purely on “the best”- I’m not your girl.
The upside? You’ll know if I do like something- it must be pretty good. The occasional thing may even be awesome. But not everything.
Because if everything is awesome, nothing is.
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