Chaudhary dons the mantle of the whistleblower and warns his fellow reviewers and Youtubers not to cheat their audience by posting paid reviews.
“Please care about your audience, make content for them. Brands don’t matter.. if they don’t give a review unit, buy it and do the review,” he urges.
Chaudhary lists the various ways in which the industry allegedly tries to influence reviewers, bloggers and Youtube video makers.
The primary, and the most effective method involves the denial of the review unit.
Weeks before a product is launched, the company reaches across to the reviewers and journalists, seeking to know if they are interested in carrying an item on the product. If they are, a sample product is sent to them for the purpose of checking.
As a result, one or two weeks before the product hits the market, websites and Youtube are filled with reviews of the upcoming product.
If a person does a nasty appraisal of the product, there is a good chance that he or she will not be approached for the next product. This potentially prevents the professional reviewer from being fully objective and from giving out all the negative factors.
Some brands even insist on ‘reaching an understanding’ about the final content of the article even before the test unit is handed over.
This is also the reason why many people prefer to go by actual user reviews on ecommerce websites like Amazon and Flipkart instead of media, blog or Youtube reviews.
The second method involves giving cash and non-cash ‘incentives’ to influence the person doing the review. This includes free trips to hill stations and other tourist places, and sometimes ‘forgetting’ to take the review unit back after the article has been published.
On social media, it is also considered acceptable to take money from brands in return for ‘plugging’ their product.
For example, someone who has 100,000 followers on Twitter can make money simply for tweeting that a brand has launched a new product, or for sending out a photo of the product.
In case of smartphones, for example, such sponsored posts involve tweeting or sharing a photo with the tag line, ‘shot with the new XXX model of smartphone’.
The compensation paid ranges from a few tens of thousands of rupees to lakhs of rupees, depending on the number of tweets, videos or posts involved and the number of followers the person has.
The main difference between advertisements and paid content is that while in the first case, the audience is told that the medium carrying it is doing so in exchange for money, in the second case, the audience is completely unaware.
This is also the factor highlighted by Chaudhary.