Half-asleep and making a cup of tea just before 7am this morning, the fuzzy background chatter of BBC Radio Five Live suddenly sounded serious and relevant.
Sheelagh Fogarty, the breakfast show's co-presenter with Nicky Campbell, was chatting breezily about user reviews on travel websites!
Thankfully the BBC is not branching out into trade journalism for the online travel industry - rather Lorna Cowan, editor of Holiday Which?, was plugging the latest edition featuring an investigation into user generated content and reviews.
A subscription wall prevents us from linking to the piece [email us for a PDF].
The scare tactics which have featured in a number of articles about UGC over the past year or so do seem to have disappeard in the main from consumer titles.
This latest piece highlights a few examples of bogus reviews, but the safeguards being put in place by the likes of TripAdvisor are explained in full. Readers - in the UK - are also reassured with news that legislation to prosecute the hoaxers, or "those who falsly represent the consumer", is due in 2008.
Still, Holiday Which? being the sceptical organ it is, asked Steve Fazakerley, one of its principal researchers for an opinion:
I used to think user websites were a great idea, then I actually visited some hotels which had decent reviews – and I thought they were rubbish.Thankfully it seems the idea we have been saying for ages is finally filtering through: user generated content does actually act as an unofficial consumer watchdog when researching holiday products.
My opinion now is that a hotel which has bad reviews is probably bad, but a hotel with good reviews might not be that good. Sites are useful for filtering out the worst, but I wouldn’t trust them for the best.
[Read our interview with TripAdvisor in 2006]
Holiday Which? says:
The more people do this [leave reviews], the more companies may strive to counter negative reviews with better service and better quality.Hurrah.
With the increasing popularity of forums, written reviews, photographic and video evidence, it would seem in a hotel’s best interest to offer good services in the first place rather than risk damage to their reputation through a host of bad reviews on websites.
Kevin May, editor, Travolution
Technorati tags: tripadvisor
user review user generated content UGC