|Computer Hardware Reviews: Industry Insider|
|Articles - Opinion & Editorials|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 05 October 2010|
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Computer Hardware Reviews: Inside the Industry
Exposing tricks of the trade and revealing industry secrets doesn't bite the hand that feeds you, unless you're owned by the manufacturers.
After four years of aggressively working our way up the ladder, Benchmark Reviews has grown to better understand the industry around us. If you're reading this, the chances are very good that you either hold an interest in the legitimacy of product reviews or you're already a frequent visitor to our site and read our articles. Regardless, there's a lot going on behind the scenes that you'll never see unless you're part of the media, and it all has an impact on the independent evaluations you've come to trust. In this editorial article Computer Hardware Reviews: Inside the Industry, I share my eye-opening observations and personal experiences with you for the benefit of extending an understanding to others. Let's begin with why we're here, and why we do this.
The computer hardware industry accounts for a significant portion of worldwide consumer electronic sales, which results in a proportionate amount of marketing and advertising effort expended to help push sales. Equally aggressive in this competition for consumer attention is the myriad of media outlets that focus and feature these products. Media coverage ranges from printed press, dedicated websites, topic blogs, broadcast radio and audio casts. Depending on whether the media outlet is a hobbyist resource or operated like a business, competition can be just as fierce as it is between the companies selling product. As a result, the competition creates favoritism towards specific media outlets, increasing the struggle for sponsorship opportunities.
For the purpose of this short editorial piece, we'll concentrate on the computer hardware industry. I've had the good fortune to experience this industry as a sales person in the mobile electronics field during the dot-com boom of the late 1990's, as the owner of a small business that sells PC products since 2000, and as a reviewer and editor for Benchmark Reviews since 2007.
Each major company has a marketing department that works closely with media outlets, and they frequently offer new products for evaluation testing referred to as sponsorship. The process of receiving samples is different for each company, since most requests are filled from a small inventory held aside just for marketing purposes. Other times these sample requests are sent on temporary loan basis, whenever products are expensive or in short supply. As previously reported, the highest ranking media usually get the most sponsorship attention - from both consumer visitors and manufacturer companies - as they make up the highest rung in the ladder.
Despite our enthusiast roots, Benchmark Reviews is a collection of individuals who strive to offer thorough tests and professional-looking images in our review articles. We do it all ourselves: requesting product, research, testing, writing the article, photo editing, chart building, and even the proof reading. For a low-budget outfit I think we've done pretty good job of publishing high-quality projects to our readership. This doesn't excuse us from the occasional mistake, but it proves that even a small team of unpaid amateurs can succeed if they work together as a team. It also means that we have to work even harder at competing with the professional websites.
Once a product is received, technical marketing collateral is usually offered by the manufacturer based on availability and project importance. In four years of testing consumer products and writing reviews, very few companies have sent expanded technical documentation with their sample. Based on my experience, the most helpful companies will consistently offer design details in a white paper document or press deck. Surprisingly, the majority of manufacturers offer very little documentation with their new product, leaving reviewers to uncover the details for themselves. This is something that changes as you climb the ranks, but not for the reasons you might think...