Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

What Does an Idepenedent Review Source’s Acquisition Mean for its Credibility?


Longtime fans of are understandably worried that the digital photography review site’s recently-announced acquisition by Amazon will hurt editorial independence. Also understandably, the site’s founder is focused only on the upside:

“We’ve worked very hard over the last eight years to deliver consistently high quality content to our readers”, founder Phil Askey said. “It will be fantastic to be able to expand and build on that without compromising our quality or independence. With the support and resources of Amazon we can achieve this.”(link).

Here at ConsensusBest, we’ve used as one of the many sources of quality review information on which we base our own recommendations. But it is just one source. Will it continue to be? That depends. Surely the ownership could cheapen the value of the site’s reviews, but that’s not a foregone conclusion. It may make them better. After all, it’s not as if didn’t have affiliate relationships with third-party retailers before. No one suggests that those relationships resulted in reviews being skewed in favor of higher-priced (and more profitable for the site) cameras.

Amazon has a great history of innovation in fostering independent product reviews: user reviews, wikis, customer photos, etc. We’re inclined to believe that they’re wise enough not to undermine the value of their new purchase by doing anything to prompt its community to question the site’s integrity.

As always, we’ll continue to rely on our guidelines for source credibility, specifically:

On what are the Consensus Best recommendations based?

On the best available ratings, reviews, and recommendations of unbiased product experts and consumers like you. To identify the best products, our editors turn to the most trusted sources of online and offline product reviews, from consumer publications where scientists test products in the lab to niche Web sites where enthusiasts put them to use in the real world.

So we’ll continue to use as a resource until something they do gives us reason to stop. Stay tuned…

ConsensusBest in the News


Poughkeepsie Journal business reporter Sarah Bradshaw came to campus last week to speak with the team. She asked a lot of great questions. Her article from today’s paper is here. As it says, ConsensusBest is still in its infancy. With your help, we know we can build the site into a great shopping resource for Poughkeepsie, the mid-Hudson Valley, and beyond.

We’ve already gotten a bunch of great e-mail responses to the story. Some from business owners wanting their stores listed alongside the ConsensusBest-listed products which they carry. Others from people offering thoughtful suggestions for improving the site. Keep the great feedback coming. Oh, and Go Red Foxes!

New Category: Dishwashers

Originally uploaded to Flickr by Independentman

Photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Independentman.

In our effort to be an all-purpose shopping research resource (say that 10 times fast!), we’re always making decisions about which product categories to add next. The handful of categories with which we launched the site a few months back were determined based largely on areas that our research showed to be especially lacking in easy-to-find and digest sources of good, independent information.

Now that we have visitors to the site and tools for seeing where they’re spending their time, we can direct our efforts to the areas where our users are showing the most interest. One of those area is home appliances. And so we’ve added dishwashers to the mix, starting off with five great machines across all four of our price categories, with more on the way.

Winner of the _______ Award!

“Best product” awards are like Boy Scout merit badges – sooner or later everybody gets at least one to sew on their chest for all to see. But, unlike a Boy Scout, it’s not always clear that these products have really earned these distinctions or even that the “distinction” is worth having in the first place.

Most of us are familiar with this one jdpower1.jpg. It’s the J.D. Power and Associates Award and we’ve seen it so often associated with products that we know are good that it’s become a pretty reliable and authoritative symbol of quality.

Similarly, when they see this cnetaward2.gif or this pcmagaward.jpg , most seasoned electronics junkies know that the CNET Editor’s Choice Award or PC Magazine‘s Readers’ Choice Award means you’re looking at a top digital camera or laptop.

But what about this buyerslabinc.jpg? It may be less familiar, but does that mean that it’s less trustworthy. On the flip side of that question, just because it looks respectable and a manufacturer slaps it on an ad or their Web site, does that mean we should put any faith in it?

Well, from a marketer’s perspective, if you have to stop and think about these questions, then these awards haven’t done their job. But what about the consumer’s perspective? You can be dismissive of them or trust that they have some merit. But in both cases, making an uninformed decision may come at a cost.

So central to our research is investigating not just the product review and the awards it’s won, but the sources behind those opinions and distinctions. For example, we learned that Buyer’s Laboratory Inc. is, in fact, a respected source of business equipment information based on its extensive real-world tests.

We won’t ever trust an award, even from the best sources, to tell the whole story on a product, but one from the likes of  a Cnet or a Buyer’s Laboratory certainly helps determine what’s best.

But there are other “best of” awards that give us pause. Often it’s an unfamiliar source that lacks a clear statement about their independence or lack thereof and gives few, if any, details on their researchers or their methods and sources. They may have fancy looking awards that they bestow on products, but if we can’t tell — even after much effort — what their case is for doing so, you can be sure that they mean nothing to us and will carry no weight in our recommendations.

Critcal Metrics: A “ConsensusBest of Music”

This is cool. is a site that takes the same approach as and applies it to music. Basically, they look at the best sources of music criticism — everything from Rollingstone and the AP to Pitchfork and The Fader — and come up with the songs that are common to everyone’s “best” list. From the site:

Critical Metrics filters all recommendations and all reviews ranked four stars or greater during the selected time period, displaying the most highly rated, diversely recommended, broadly circulated and recent results first.

You can set your own filters for your favorite critics and make and share playlists. Check out a short playlist we made. Happy listening!

For Love or Money?

Pete Cashmore over at Mashable has a write-up on, a new social shopping site that cuts users in on affiliate fees when someone makes a purchase based on their product recommendations. Like everything in the Web 2.0 space, social shopping sites are launching at a furious pace, and letting people profit from their efforts seems reasonable and a good way to help distinguish yourself. Or is it?

I’ve only taken a quick glance at USuggest, so this isn’t really about them in particular. But in the study organizational behavior, there’s a widely accepted dynamic that suggests that something that someone enjoys doing as a volunteer suddenly and perhaps not surprisingly starts to feel like work as soon as it becomes a paid effort.

If anyone’s going to profit off these sites, that group might as well include their users. But one of the unresolved issues here and with other community-oriented sites (think of people who Digg for nothing versus those who are paid to do the same thing –submit interesting news items –for Netscape) is the tension between doing something for the joy and help it provides to a fellow member of the community versus doing it to generate an income, even if it’s just pocket change.

Happy Holidays!


With less than three shopping days left until Christmas, the time savings that can offer the harried, last-minute shopper are greater than ever (we speak here from personal experience :-) ). And the value of our local store listings is most obvious now that all but a few online retailers have passed their “have-it-by-Christmas” ordering deadlines.

Hopefully, we can save you some time that will be better spent sharing the spirit of the season with friends and loved ones. For those who have been using the site, we’d love to hear any stories about how ConsensusBest may have helped make your holiday shopping a little easier this year. And, as always, we’d love to hear your suggestions on how to improve the site in the coming year at

Finally, we at want to wish all of you Happy Holidays and all the best for a Happy and Healthy New Year!

The Next Phase of

It’s been just short of three months since went live in what’s best described as a soft launch. What does that mean? Well, it means we wanted the site to be up and accessible to see how it performed and how well it fared with the likes of Google and Yahoo! when someone typed, for example, “baby products poughkeepsie ny” into the search box. (The answer, but the way, is: pretty good). We were happy to have people find us, mentioning the site on some blogs and asking for feedback. Many did so and to them, we’re thankful. But we didn’t go actively seeking users.

I like the falling-in-love analogy. When you think you’ve found the person of your dreams, you tell a few friends and family. When you know you have and you’re engaged, you want to shout it to the world and put an announcement in the paper. Well, consider this our big announcement. We’ve announced the site to local media outlets here in the Hudson Valley and neighboring Connecticut, and we’re eager for the feedback that we hope an initial round of publicity will bring.

Of course, the true test of a site’s value is whether it serves, not search engines, but real live human beings.
That’s why we’re looking forward to hearing from, and talking with, all of you about your thoughts on the site and how it can better serve your needs. Thanks for your time.

Update: I should have mentioned that I did a phone interview this morning with Linda Rosner of WKNY in Kingston at AM1490 in the Hudson Valley. Linda asked some great questions about the site and the Marist students who built it. There should be a piece on the air soon, so keep an ear out. And thanks for your interest, Linda!

MerchantCircle Reconsidered

Peter Krasilovsky is having second thoughts about MerchantCircle and the commenters who decried its phone spamming. (Covered earlier here).

We’re Up! is now online! It’s a place where people with a passion for everything from kitchen knives to tread mills research all the most trusted, independent sources and come up with a list of the “Consensus Best” ones. In doing so, we save you a bunch of time by cutting through the information clutter, and bring you insights that no search engine alone can provide. But we don’t just tell you about the best products, we also show you where you can buy them near you. We’re aiming to provide the missing link between online research and local, in-store shopping, where the vast majority of purchases still take place.

It’s a work in progress. With a combination of hard work and insight from a knowledgeable community of users, we hope to quickly add new features, and expand our product categories and the reach of local store listings. Here’s a quick look at what you’ll find on the site right now:

1. More than 300 product recommendations in six categories arranged by price category, including baby products and cell phones with more being added all the time.

2. Category-by-category listings of the criteria that went into determine the best products and some insight into our research.

3. Local store listings of retailers that carry ConsensusBest-listed products. We have about 150 retailers in some 300 locations in the 56 zip codes of our home-base in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley. Users outside our area can still view our product listings and access data on locations near them of national retailers. We plan to quickly expand the geographic reach and the comprehensiveness of our local store data.

4. A place for users to share their own thoughts and opinions on a particular product or category.

So, check out the site and let us know what you think. Through a combination of hard work and feedback from knowledgeable users, we plan to make the consumer’s trusted source of information on the best products and where to buy them locally.

Check back here or subscribe to our blog feed for updates on new interactive features, product categories, and local store coverage areas.


The ConsensusBest Team


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