You know that is a pretty strong title I used - You might say "Rob you are opening yourself up to a libel lawsuit" - but there is one thing about libel - it is not libel if what you say is true.  Wired Magazine had an article this week titled -  Pay to Play: Some iPhone App sites Demand Money for Reviews .  That article is something we have mentioned multiple times on the Today in iPhone Podcast and you know how much I hate sites that do that.  Full and Fair disclosure all the time is a must.  But that is not what this post is about - you can listen to my past shows for my soap box rants on that.  No this article is about something in the Wired Article that really got me mad.  It is the following from the Article.  


"The iPhone App Reviews editor-in-chief Shaun Campbell said he was unaware that his sites writers were requesting payment in exchange for reviews. He explained that the reviewers work autonomously, so he is unsure of how theyre paid by app creators. As of this writing, The iPhone App Reviews About section remains unchanged, stating that fees only apply to expedited app reviews."



See here I have a big issue - as Mr. Cambell is claiming he was unaware of this.  As of March 18th 2010.  However, here is the full Email from Mr. Cambell to me after I called out his site for the same thing back in September 2009.  



From: Shaun Campbell <webmaster@theiphoneappreview.com>

Date: September 22, 2009 2:04:13 AM CDT

To: <todayiniphone@gmail.com>

Subject: Podcast feedback


My name is Shaun Campbell, Im the Editor in Chief of The iPhone App Review.


It has come to my attention that your podcast "Today in iPhone" made a number of (incorrect) assumptions and allegations about theiphoneappreview.com which I would like to address.


I do not deny that there is a charge for a review to be published – just about every other leading iPhone review website charges a fee - most charge more than us - but I fiercely deny the allegation that the reviews are dishonest. The other review websites may refer to the fee as 'an expedition fee' to speed up the process of the review. However you choose to word it, the outcome is the same – the review is being paid for, and we are then no more deserving of your criticism than any of the others. It seemed that the lack of discretion was your main concern - this was not intentional and has since been remedied.


We have a strict policy on the reviews – the developer is purchasing exposure, not a glowing recommendation. I instruct all my authors to write honestly. We have published several reviews in just the past week that have scored ratings of 50% or lower. iDrop Dead was a paid review and scored 4/10 ( Hostile Waters was a paid review and scored 5/10 - there are other examples.


I would appreciate it if you would check your facts before you make such claims in the future. We take pride in having some of the best written and comprehensive iPhone reviews available, and this will continue into the future.


Regards,


Shaun Campbell


Oh but that is not all in February, 2010 the following email was sent out from one of his reporters that he claimed he did not know how they were paid. (Hint - BS)


From: "Nancy" <nancy@theiphoneappreview.com>

Date: February 28, 2010 xx:xx:xx AM CST

To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Subject: App Review Opportunity


My name is Nancy Jones, I'm an author at The iPhone App Review  Would you be interested in having your app, xxxxxxxxx, featured and reviewed on the website? The iPhone App Review is a leading online source of iPhone application news and reviews, and with thousands of readers each week, you’ll gain invaluable exposure to a targeted audience of potential customers.

 

We can provide an expedited review on The iPhone App Review for only $25. Our review will provide a permanent direct link to your app on the iTunes store. Additionally, we can link to your corporate website to help with your promotion and sales. Reviews on The iPhone App Review are both comprehensive and honest, and apps will still be judged on merit.

 

Your app looks like it would be a lot of fun and educational as well.  I look forward to testing it. 

 

If you would like us to feature your app, please forward me your iTunes link, preferred website URL, promo code and any supporting images, and I will publish your review within 7 working days. Payment can be forwarded to PayPal ID shaun.p.campbell@xxxxxx.xxx


 

Nancy Jones

Author

The iPhone App Review

 

(xxxxx's added by Today in iPhone to protect all involved - even if one did not deserve protection)


For him in the article on Wired to say he knew nothing about the pay for play and how they were paid is a lie - plain and simple.  He knew it in September when he emailed me - and he definitely knew it in February when the email went out with his pay pal account for payment.  


As I said before do not trust any reviews you read on - the iPhone app review - site or any other site that charges for reviews.  And as a developer don't ever pay for an app review.


I would love to hear your feedback in the comments or call it in for the next show. If you are a listener you know the number. 


Update: 3/20/2010 10:41 AM CT - Mr. Campbell sent me an email threatening legal action if I do not remove the emails above. He claimed they were in violation of Copyright law.  However I claim they fall under the fair use doctrine - as the emails present a counter claim to his public comments in the Wired article and as such provide the public with needed information.  I guess we will let the courts decide.  I don't like being threatened - Mr. Campbell I will NOT remove the emails above.  Mr. Campbell here is something to try - How about full and fair disclosure next to each post where someone paid for the "expedite fee".  


Update: 3/21/2010 9:02 AM CT - Mr. Campbell contacted me to let me know they are now including with each post which ones paid an expedite fee.  As per what we recommended above and in compliance with what the FTC requires.  However he is still threatening us with legal action.  And claiming the following:  "You don’t even have the common decency to reply to criticism, you just post your ramblings where there is no right of reply."  Ummm - How about the comments button below Mr. Campbell? Or calling into my show? 

Category:breaking news -- posted at: 12:00am EDT
Comments[8]

  • I just checked the small print of the 10 reviews that currently occupy the front page of their website. All 10 of them apparently involved a 'small fee to expedite the publication of the review'. So I don't know if they're claiming the fee is the only way to get reviewed, but it sure looks that way from a sample of 10...

    posted by: Tom on 2011-04-27 12:56:07

  • You rock Rob!! I've just finished my first app and have been attempting to market it only to be sickened by this "pay to play" BS. Making these sites/youtube channels famous for their behavior is something everyone who runs into this should do. Once again, great post Rob, and love the podcast.

    posted by: James Purdy on 2010-05-23 20:32:31

  • "You don't even have the common decency to reply to criticism, you just post your ramblings where there is no right of reply." That is funny. If only Mr. Campbell owned some kind of web site on which he could post his side of the story.

    posted by: Richard Brantley on 2010-03-24 15:47:55

  • Go get em Rob.

    posted by: Ben on 2010-03-23 17:00:54

  • Good on ya,Rob! Full and fair disclosure is the ONLY way to go!

    posted by: Skip in FL on 2010-03-22 12:01:28

  • Rob, thanks for doing the right thing! In today's online world, integrity is paramount. This blog entry clearly shows how dangerous (and outright stupid) it is to build a business model on such shaky ground, and I thank you for helping draw the curtain. I bought a lot of iPhone apps, some of them based on online reviews, and most of the time these choices turned out to be hit and miss, even with great reviews. I now know why.

    posted by: Chris Marquardt on 2010-03-22 11:52:12

  • The email from Ms. Jones, in my opinion, appears as more of a solicitation for advertisement of the App on their Blog which would come with a review as well. My take on it is that for $25 you can have your App reviewed and featured promptly rather than waiting for the "authors" to actually review the App just based on the merit of the App itself. It does not appear, in my mind, that the review site would never review an App at all unless they are paid, but if the developer wants to be "featured" quickly, then the review could be "processed" immediately for the "fee". The whole process is questionable on the grounds that a "professional opinion" that should be unbiased is now linked to money. The review may or may not be influenced by the "fee", however on an ethics standpoint it is just plain wrong. Sell advertising as advertising, it is clearly understood that the public is seeing something because money traded hands, but reviews are to be free and clear of any influences or bias that can be directly related to money. Honesty, integrity, and ethics should be above all else when it comes to "evaluations" of any product or service that is t be used by the general public, public entities, or private business. If I review something I definitely will tell my readers and listeners if I was able to keep the product or received any compensation at all. Then and only then can the person reading or listening to the review judge for themselves if my review is biased or not. Oh well, I guess no matter how many laws, rules, or regulations are put out, there is a way to skirt around them. All hail the independent reviewer who do it for nothing and word of mouth advertising. make a great mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door. - Norbert Davis Host - Totally Cool Tech Podcast http://www.totallycoolotech.com

    posted by: Norbert Davis on 2010-03-20 16:25:33

  • Maybe you should point him to the new FTC policy that requires that sponsorships need to be disclosed as of December 1, 2009 http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005endorsementguidesfnnotice.pdf

    posted by: Ed Roberts on 2010-03-20 16:01:25

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