Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Holiday Which? magazine turns its attention to user generated content

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.

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.
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.

[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.

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

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martin lane said...

Interesting that Holiday Which?, a magazine that for years has specialized in "poo in the pool" horror stories, should turn its attention to user generated content. Yes, user reviews are open to rebuttal/corruption by media-savvy travel companies, but most are a lot more honest than those written by travel journalists enjoying free hospitality from their hosts.

Travolution Blogger said...

Disclosure: Martin Lane was editor of Travel Weekly UK and edited the first edition of Travolution in 2005.

martin lane said...

Any freebies accepted during my time as editor of Travel Weekly UK were strictly for research purposes only.

Darren Cronian said...

Well I suppose their rant on user generated content has generated some much needed publicity.

I missed the results of the 'who do you trust' poll on the blog, but I suspect that reviews were much more trusted than other sources.

[I'm struggling to catchup with the Travel Blogosphere!]

Travel Insider said...

A friend of my summed up user generated content perfectly...."There may be some fake ones outr there but their better than those golossy brochures which are guarenteed to be full of biased bullshit"

Rishi Lakhani said...

I do like to encourage user generated content - but I find that out of the hundreds that enjoy their holiday, only a handful post their reviews - whereas a much higher percentage of people with bad experiences are willing to talk about it - probably due to the fact that posting the bad review is the only way they can get back to the company!

So how fair is the balance (or lack off)?