365 of Me: 340/25 – Amazon Review Writing

Today’s post is more free stuff! And I’m not posting it to rub it in, but more to make a point about something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I used to be obsessed with reviews on Amazon – both writing them, and getting them for my own work.

Today? Not so much.

For what it’s worth, my current reviewer rank is #2339. I broke into the top 1000 a few years ago only once and didn’t even stay there a week. I have written 535 reviews to date. My first review was written in the year 2000. I reviewed mostly books back then, but did review the occasional CD or VHS tape starting in 2001. Yep, I wrote my first VHS review for a movie called Trick in 2002. I didn’t write my first product review (that wasn’t a book, movie, or CD) until 2007 when I reviewed both a camera and a coffee pot (both of which I paid for).

Today, things are much different. I used to get book review requests every day in my email. I still average one of those about every two weeks, and I delete most of them. I always laugh when the author makes a point of telling me to please post my review on Amazon. Like that’s all that matters these days, but I’m guilty of asking that too!  But, about every other day I get a request to review a product…vitamins, ear phones, shower heads, kitchen gadgets, outdoor lighting, dog leashes, you name it.  The three items pictured above were all items I received within the last two weeks, just in exchange for a review on Amazon. That’s it.  How, you ask?  I’ll tell you how it all got started…

A few years ago I got invited to be in an “elite” club called Amazon Vine, where Amazon gave away free stuff for you to review. You could pick 3 items a month and the loot to pick from was updated each month with only a limited number of each item available. Yeah, it was mostly books but there’s products too. They even gave away a fridge and a washer once! You know there was probably only one of each of those available.

Over time, I got tired of books and started choosing more products. I’ve gotten bottles of laundry detergent, shower gel, hair care products, dishes, tooth brushes, tea, cereal, post-its, and more! Looking at the current list of products available on Vine, there are 623 book titles and 4 home and garden items. Of course, I looked at the home and garden items first and didn’t even touch the books!

If you look at most of Amazon’s top reviewers, they are Vine members. The Vine program has gotten a lot of flack since it first started in 2008, mainly because it’s a “private club” and Amazon chooses the members, and because of its tactics of giving stuff away in exchange for reviews. So, Vine reviews are often overlooked just for that reason. Yeah, we worked hard to write honest reviews over time and have been rewarded by Amazon to be a part of this unique experience, but other consumers out there don’t see it that way. Amazon used to send out an email each month letting you know when new products were available, but they don’t even do that anymore so you are kind of on your own. And being out of sight out of mind, I haven’t chosen anything or written a Vine review since June.  I wonder if my membership could get revoked?

Going back to top reviewers, for the sake of this post I checked out the Top Reviewer, Joanna Daneman, who is currently ranked #4 (and she’s a Vine member), and out of the top 20 reviews she has written between November 20th and today, only two of those were for books. And as I look over her product reviews, I know most of those weren’t offered through Vine. Like me, Joanna probably gets lots of offers in her in-box each day.

Believe me, I’m not complaining about free swag, but it’s just interesting to me how Amazon has been beaten up over the years for their business practices in the book industry, but their top reviewer has written 44 reviews the past month and only five were for books. It’s all just very interesting to think about how the dynamic and focus has changed.

That’s all. Now excuse me while I go install my free solar light and walk my dog with his new leash. The double-headed shower head is fab-u-lous!

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