Sunday, August 23, 2009

Faking the News

PR firm has interns post positive reviews for clients

Gagan Biyani at MobileCrunch, part of the TechCrunch site, has been reporting on a public relations firm that has been using interns to post phony, hyped reviews of one of its client's products. Surprise. Online reviews that aren't what they are supposed to be. I have seen more and more reporters relying on what they find online to fill in or even form their entire stories.

What a bad idea. If you can't track the person you're reporting on, by, say, having a real conversation with him, you probably shouldn't be quoting him. Yes, we've had print people fooled by fairly elaborate hoaxsters over the years, but the Internet makes it so much easier.

When it comes to winning in the App Store, one PR firm has discovered a dynamite strategy: throw ethics out the window. Reverb Communications, a PR firm that represents dozens of game publishers and developers, has managed to find astounding success on Apple’s App Store for its clients. Among its various tactics? It hires a team of interns to trawl iTunes and other community forums posing as real users, and has them write positive reviews for their client’s applications. Yeah, that 5-star iTunes app review you saw for the once top-5 paid app Enigmo? It might not be written by a real user, but rather by Pangea Software’s PR firm. Reverb isn’t the first to try and game the user review process, but they are definitely one of the most blatant cases.

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