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Monday, January 27, 2014

Some Oysters best consumed with a hefty grain of salt.

Opinion by Traveloscopy.com editor, Roderick Eime

file image Craig Holmes Premium / Alamy

The online and social media phenomenon is raising all sorts of spectres, particularly in relation to media ethics and reliability of published information.

The finger of blame is often pointed at the blogger, a Johnny-come-lately in the global media environment keen to gain followers and acceptance through popularist and sycophantic posts.

While not all bloggers are shameless loose cannons clawing for freebies and e-traffic by any means fair or foul, those who are tar all with the same brush.

Then there are those media outlets that openly encourage poorly credentialed contributors to write for peanuts using questionable tactics.

What would you say if you discovered one of the web’s highest ranking hotel review sites has reviews written by ‘freelancers’ paid peanuts (10c per word) from supplied photographs. Yes, ‘reviews’ written by people who had never stayed at or even set foot in the hotel. If you were the hotel or a prospective guest, how would you feel about that?

The site claims: “Our special investigators visit, photograph, review and rate each hotel. We uncover the truth, before it's "uh-oh" time.”

So why don’t these photographers write the reviews? It also calls into question the skill and motivation of these photographers if the budget is anything like that allocated for the writers.

The site claims their photographers produce ‘real’photographs that show the actual size of the swimming pool, the proximity (or not) to local landmarks and the breakfast buffet not arranged by a magazine stylist.

Okay, there may be some merit in that, but can you really call a seriously underpaid copywriter working in a distant office (or bedroom) from suspect photographs and a rudimentary checklist an “expert reviewer” or “expert hotel investigator”. I would argue ‘no’.

If your “mission is to deliver unbiased, expert information about hotels” then at least treat your readers with respect and have qualified reviewers write from firsthand examination.

So, who am I talking about? It’s Oyster.com which launched in 2009 and was acquired by TripAdvisor in October 2013.

TripAdvisor itself has been the subject of intense criticism these last few years for failing to monitor and act on claims of false and fake reviews. So just what plans does "the world's largest travel site" have for Oyster.com? Watch this space.

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