Sponsored Software Reviews

By Deane Barker on May 31, 2003

I got an email today from a service which will remain nameless lest they get more publicity. I assume this email is talking about an open-source project I started several years ago:

We want to review your software […] For a one time fee we will do the review of your choice and then publish the review on all our partner sites that we have now and ‘ALL’ the partners that sign up in the future.

[…] We have three different packages, bronze, silver, and gold. … With the bronze you’ll get a very basic review, basically highlighting the bad and good about the review. Cost: $25.00 USD … With the silver review you’ll get a more in depth review that will specialize every important aspect of your software. Cost: $100.00 USD … With the gold review you’ll get a very advanced review, it will be very in depth and include screenshots, excerpts, etc… It will be rated in several different aspects depending on the type of product it is. Cost: $300.00 USD

Now, I thought, they never said anything about ensuring the review is positive, so maybe that’s not so bad. Then there was this line:

Once the review is written, it will be sent to you before we publish it on your request.

So the review will only be published if I approve it? What worries me here is that people are going to read the review and think it’s a legitimate, unbiased look at a product. There are ethical questions to this plan that nag at me. Whenever I read a software review from now on, will I wonder whether it’s legit, or if this service wrote it?