Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Here's a fascinating article in this week's New York Times Magazine about a company called BzzAgent that signs up volunteers to test new products and agree to spread the word about them. A paragraph toward the end of the article:

It is certainly easier to defend the voluntary buzz-spreaders as less devious than the paid model pretending to like a product in public -- but the honesty and openness come with an asterisk or two. Those suggestions in the Bzz guides to call bookstores and pretend you don't know the exact title or author you're looking for are pretty hard to define as "honest." Similarly, it's most unlikely that (let alone The Concord Monitor) would consider the reviews of a BzzAgent quite as unbiased and helpful to readers as a review from someone who hadn't consulted talking points compiled with input from the publisher. The whole tone of the Bzz guides -- which read like a cross between a brochure and a training manual -- is a bit difficult to square with the idea of genuineness.

I'm not sure what I think about this stuff. I mean, I don't want to have to wonder if a friend who tells me one jelly is better than another jelly is actually working for an affiliate of the jelly company, motivated by something else besides just telling me his honest opinion of the jelly. But I also think it's probably pretty effective marketing, and if a company is trying to get its new jelly out there, I don't know how awful this is. I mean, I guess it's not great. It's disingenuous, like the article says. And that's not good. But it's not murder. I guess. Just read the article. Clearly I've got nothing to add on top of that.