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Selling product reviews as ads

August 21, 2013

In April, a senior editor for the technology-news site wrote a mostly positive review of a Samsung smartphone, though she criticized its dim screen and “cheaper look” compared to rivals like the iPhone. As reports, the article is now part of “CNET Replay,” a new advertising product that lets Samsung promote the review on the CNET homepage.

Under pressure from advertising agencies, publishers are trying to devise new native ad formats that carry a suggestion of editorial credibility. For an advertiser like Samsung, the CNET review, though not entirely positive, is probably worth more than a display ad bought on the site, reports. Intel, Microsoft and Lenovo have also used the service to promote positive reviews of their products.

Coming from a publisher, such a product further blurs the line between editorial content and advertising. CNET, which is part of CBS Interactive, says reviewers are not compensated, advertisers can’t change headlines or edit reviews, and the content carries a disclaimer.

In a study, Replay did not “significantly affect” perceptions of editorial credibility, the publisher says. CNET claims its ratio of positive-to-negative reviews remains unchanged, but as reports, the Replay service still raises the question of whether editors could be nudged into writing more positive reviews. — Greg Beaubien 


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