Everyone’s a Critic: Rating, Ranking, Reviewing

Posted: November 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

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The  Web has “democratized” many professions — including the journalistic role of rating, ranking and reviewing. We can now find ratings, rankings and reviews of just about everything — from consumer products, songs and movies to university professors and doctors. There are no more barriers to entry for anyone who wants to rate, rank or review something or someone.

 There are many websites devoted to rating, ranking and reviewing, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. Other sites such as Amazon feature rating, ranking and reviewing features. Many people now trust these sites more than they do “professional” critics. Indeed, the democratization of rating, ranking and reviewing has had a major impact on the commercial success of products.

For a background article on the role of online social netwoks in this phenomenon, see “Everyone’s a Critic Now“. Also see this article in the New York Times: “The Art of the Amateur Online Review”. For the marketing impact, see “Why Brands Have to Embrace Online Reviews” and this article in the Harvard Business Review, “What Marketers Misunderstand About Online Reviews.”

Online rating and ranking has become so widespread that sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp are now indispensible tools for planning everything from a night out for a meal and movie to a holiday in an exotic location. Marketers cannot ignore the power of online reviews. See this infographic on “review marketing“. As this Harvard study found, positive Yelp reviews definitely boost business for local restaurants. For the full Harvard paper, see this link. Yelp has been controversial, however, sometimes accused of charging businesses for playing up positive reviews and playing down negative reviews. For some articles on these questions, see “Yelp Controversy Exposes Dark Side of Web 2.0″. See this article for Yelp’s reaction to the controversy, “Yelp Makes Big Changes in a Bid to End Extorsion Claims“. But as this article in the Wall Street Journal reveals, Yelp’s troubles are not over: “Yelp Sued by Local Businesses“.

Controversy has dogged other rating and review sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon. TripAdvisor has been accused of featuring “fake” reviews. For more on that issue, see this article “TripAdvisor Warns of Fake Reviews“. In the UK, the site has even been threatened with investigation over these practices. For more on that, see this article in the Daily Mail and this article in Technocrati. This article gives practical advice on “How to Tell If A Review is Fake“. Amazon’s reviews have also been called in to question. See this article, “What Shoppers Don’t Realize About Amazon’s Reviews“. Finally see “Amazon seeks to shut down paid review sites”.

As noted above, university professors are now rated by students  on RateMyProfessors.com, a site whose popularity does not always please the academic profession. On the subject of RateMyProfessors.com, see this article in the New York Times, “Everybody’s a Critic“. RateMyProfessors.com is controversial sue to rating criteria like physical attractiveness (“Chilli Pepper”) and easiness, but the site is nonetheless used by millions of students not only for entertainment but also to select their courses. As one discovers in this article, the site can also be used to establish rankings of colleges with the worst professors, “25 Colleges With the Worst Professors“. See this article which asks the question, “Could RateMyProfessors.com Be Right?” Here is an academic study of the site, “RateMyProfessors.com: Testing Assumptions about Student Use and Misuse“.

In another area, patients also rate and review doctors online — and not always to the liking of doctors themselves. See this article in the UK’s Telegraph, “Medic fury over new doctor rating website“. See also this article on the MSNBC site, “Docs seek to stifle patients rants on websites“. Patient criticism can indeed result in controversy, as revealed in this article, “A Physician Review Gone Wrong“.

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