I just received an email from a prominent homeschooling website offering to video-review one of our products and put the review on their website.
How nice of them, right? No, because they’re charging money to do the review. A lot of money.
But the amount isn’t the point. Traditionally, reviews are never sold, because a reviewer can’t be considered unbiased if there’s money involved.
Of course, newspapers, magazines and television stations have always paid reviewers to do reviews (that’s how Siskel and Ebert became famous), but that’s different, because the creators of the products did not pay for the reviews. This is important! It’s how you know a review is an honest assessment, one person’s opinion, as opposed to a sales pitch.
When homeschooling took off in the 1980s, homeschooling magazines quickly sprang up and were soon filled with reviews of books and curriculum: the reviews were written by staff reviewers who were usually homeschooling parents. They shared valuable information and opinions. As a homeschooling mom, I appreciated these reviews when looking for books and curriculum for my children.
Since my husband and I became homeschool publishers in 2003, we’ve submitted our products for review to reputable publications and websites, and have gotten some great reviews which we used in our marketing. But we have never ONCE paid for a review. Paying for a review defeats the purpose of asking for an unbiased opinion.
Sadly, it looks like the commercialization of homeschooling has attracted some people with unethical business practices. So be warned: if you see a review of a homeschool-related product in a magazine or website, it may just be an ad in disguise.
How will you know whether a review is really a review or just an ad? Contact the source of the review and ask if they pay for reviews. Then you’ll have your answer.
If this practice becomes widespread, reviews will become meaningless, and should be called ads or (in the case of video reviews) infomercials.