Web

Amazon reviews have as much weight as professional critics, says new study

amazon reviews have as much weight professional critics says new study customerreviewDigital democratization has come to the publishing world in a surprising way, if a new study is to be believed. Research from the Harvard Business School suggests that Amazon reviews from amateur critics and everyday readers is ultimately as valuable as professional critics, with some authors possibly finding themselves preferring to deal with the unprofessionals because they’ll get a fairer hearing.

The study, entitled What Makes a Critic Tick? Connected Authors and the Determinants of Book Reviews, compared “hundreds of book reviews from 40 different newspapers and magazines” with customer reviews from Amazon.com to discover whether there was an obvious difference between the two in terms of objectivity and bias. Media covered in the report ranged from mainstream outlets like Entertainment Weekly, The Onion‘s AV Club and LA Weekly to the more highbrow London Review of Books and New York Times Book Review, with the test group of books consisting of 100 non-fiction titles published between 2004 and 2007, allowing for a sizable amount of Amazon reviews to be accumulated.

The results are somewhat surprising, with Professors Loretti I. Dobrescu, Michael Luca, and Alberto Motta discovering that newspapers and magazines are not only more favorable to authors who have previously gained media attention or won awards that others, but are also 25 percent more likely to cover a book written by an author who has previously written for their own publication (The authors of the report suggest, however, that such bias may not be intentional, suggesting that the positive reviews are the result of “tastes, rather than collusion”).

Perhaps more surprisingly, professional critics and Amazon reviewers tend to have similar opinions about a book’s quality on average, with the report stating that “experts and consumers tend to agree in aggregate about the quality of a book.” That isn’t always the case, however; the report also points out that “[r]elative to consumer reviews, professional critics are less favorable to first-time authors” than Amazon.com reviewers in general.

If professional critics are more likely to be swayed by personal or professional connections to authors (Those who have previously written for a publication are stand a 5 percent better chance of getting a positive review, according to Dobrescu, Luca and Motta) and less likely to give newcomers a fair shot, the question begins to arise: What good are they at all? Well, biased or not, at least you can rest assured that professional critics actually exist. Consider the prevalence of fake reviews online, whether frauds planted to promote sales or satirical raves for worthless products. It seems that, no matter who you choose to listen to before deciding whether or not to buy something, it’s always worth leaving the final decision to your own judgment and common sense. Buyer beware, indeed.

Product Review

Dell’s 38-inch Ultrasharp is the new king of massive monitors

LG was first to make a 38-inch ultrawide monitor, its display stood alone for almost a year. That’s no longer true. Our Dell Ultrasharp U3818DW monitor review finds that LG may need to hand over the crown.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this summer with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

September brings 'The Dragon Prince,' an animated war series, to Netflix

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

From true crime to comedy, here's our list of the best podcasts around

When you aren’t in the music mood, podcasts can be your ear candy. Whether you love to stay up-to-date on the latest news or want to know what’s happening in sports, you’ll find something on our must-listen-to podcast roundup.
Web

10 viral video celebrities from the past and where they are now

Ever wonder what happened to William Hung after his less-than-stellar American Idol audition? We take a look at 10 of the most popular viral video celebrities and see what they are up to today.
Movies & TV

Tired of Netflix? Here's where to find free movies online, legally

We've spent countless hours digging around the web to find the best sites for streaming free movies online. Not only are all of these sites completely free to use, they're also completely legal and trustworthy.
Smart Home

Tannenbaum in a box? You can order a real, 7-foot-tall Christmas tree from Amazon

If you have fond memories of going out with your family and searching for the perfect Christmas tree, well, Amazon wants to create its own holiday tradition, This year, you'll be able to order a real, seven-foot tree from Amazon.
Computing

Will Chrome remain our favorite web browser with arrival of newest version?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Social Media

Facebook expands fact-checking net to try to catch doctored photos and videos

Facebook is now fact-checking images and video along with articles, using third-party organizations. New A.I. helps flag potential fakes for human review, but user flags and comments still help recognize what content might not be accurate.
Emerging Tech

Stay up-to-date on Hurricane Florence’s path with these apps and websites

Looking to track Hurricane Florence's path towards the U.S. coast? This list of the best hurricane apps and websites with help you stay ahead of this or any future storm, and stay safe.
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.
Social Media

How to run a free background check

There are plenty of legitimate reasons for carrying out a background check, and not all of them are creepy. Here are several methods that allow you to run a thorough background check on someone online, whether you need to vet a potential…
Computing

Is your Wi-Fi screwing up again? Here's our list of the best wireless routers

Check out the best wireless routers for a variety of homes and apartments. We've collected the top routers for wireless management, 4K streaming, professional gaming, Wi-fi on a budget, and much more. Take a look at our top pick, then check…
Computing

Need to convert video in a flash? These free apps and services will do the job

Devices that are capable of playing video can be a picky bunch to say the least. Fortunately, the best free video converters can render format issues a thing of the past. Here are our current favorites.