As a recent iPod touch convert, after several years with a manly iPod classic bulging in my pocket, the Apple iTunes App Store is now a regular haunt.
When browsing applications, tens of thousands of them, user ratings can help sway the decision whether to purchase and download, even those offered free. Some ratings prove insightful and considered, others nonsensical or unintentionally amusing.
It comes as no surprise, sadly, that many of the more glowing App Store reviews, for games particularly, might be the work of PR teams rather than genuine customers and fans.
MobileCrunch reports on a PR firm that represents dozens of game publishers and developers. The company reportedly hires a bunch of interns to trawl iTunes and community forums posing as real users, and has them write positive reviews for their client’s applications.
Celebrating a billion downloads and a few dodgy reviews possibly.
A leaked document from the PR company can be found on the MobileCrunch website, with the company happily admitting to creating internal user reviews and five star style glowing comments pre-written by in house writers. MobileCrunch goes to great lengths to prove that some PR led conspiracy is clearly 'cheating' the App Store and potential customers.
The PR company claims otherwise, stating they are also in the business of sales and marketing, with reviews more social viral marketing than anything sinister. Whichever you believe, it’s worth a read, along with the comments from MobileCrunch readers.
Having worked in market research - the business of stating the obvious - the idea of star ratings or marks out of ten can be misleading, occasionally downright deceitful. Percentage figures would occasionally mysteriously appear out of the air, or pocket of the MD. Some reviewers and monitors, those who got paid to give regular opinions, where friends and family of staff, the whole system open to abuse.
Oh, and years ago I once coded a market research survey that had categories for both Apple and Macintosh, effectively halving their share. A pattern was set even then.