Travel Sites See Bogus User-Generated-Content
Travel websites are experiencing tremendous growth. Upwards of $69 billion were spent at online travel sites last year, up 13 percent from last year according to comScore. And a big reason for the growth is user-generated-content (UGC), mostly in the form of user reviews. Of course, the doors then open to bogus reviews and those attempting to game the system - insiders writing their own reviews to drive traffic and sales. Speaking at the Reuters Hotels and Casinos 2007 Summit in Los Angeles this week, Priceline.com Chief Executive Jegg Boyd said, "It's somebody who's in effect been paid to make the property look good."
Does any of this sound familiar? Think paid blogging - sites like PayPerPost, ReviewMe, Blogsvertise and others. These sites unabashedly pay bloggers to write product and service reviews. As more people get familiar with UGC, a trust factor comes into play. Reading a review on a hotel from a past patron is certainly a good measure of quality, right? Reading a review of a product from a peer that has actually used it is much better than a "testimonial" on the box - isn't it?
So, travel sites are taking measures to prevent UGC abuse. Priceline.com addresses the problem by only allowing users to post reviews after they have stayed at the particular hotel. TripAdvisor employs people trained to detect fraud in their reviews. As for the paid blogging sites, most have started to require full disclosure from the reviewer. Whether restrictions become even tighter, or paid blogging is sustainable, I guess we will have to wait and see.
Website Magazine's February issue features an article about paid blogging services and the debate surrounding these sites. Get your free subscription, and please join the conversation by logging in and leaving your comments.