I am a skeptic.
(Note: this does not mean I am a conspiracy theorist, as people often think.)
Product reviews among the runner-blogger arena have become increasingly popular, however, they should carry the same warning as any other consumer review:
This is especially important as the popularity of running continues to grow, the running-boom it seems, has no end in sight.
My main concern about product reviews (and yes, books are indeed products) are that they very often lack a few crucial components that will impact you’re own satisfaction with a given product:
Most often, the reviewer (I’m referring here to bloggers), didn’t pay for the product. But rather, was sent a free sample in exchange for the review. Even if (and with most of the running bloggers I follow this is the case) the reviewer refuses to agree to write a positive review, their judgement will always be impacted by the fact that they did not pay for the product with their own money. It’s awful hard to truly feel ripped-off if what you paid was $0.00.
- CONTEXT: although I feel like I know some of the bloggers I follow very well, I don’t know enough about the context of their perception and experience of any particular product to know if it relates to what I can reasonably expect my experience would be in a meaningful way.
- Link bait: in large part personal blogs, like mine, post product reviews because it generates traffic, especially when such reviews are tied in with a giveaway. I really dislike giveaways, and link-bait.
So then, if I am so down on product reviews then why am I doing them here? Because I get flabbergasted when books about running, and products targeted at runners are mis-represented, and it happens all the time. I also get really frustrated when new or less experienced runners get swept up in marketing hype and buy a product that ends up injuring them because of a lack of CONTEXT in most reviews.
I’m guilty of this myself, NUUN has been getting so hyped by so many bloggers (most of whom get it for free, or are getting free entries into things like Ragnar, of HTC in exchange for promoting the product.)
So I bought several tubes of the stuff. And even though I got sick the first time I tried it, I refused to believe that’s what did it, so 4 times I tried the stuff, and 4 times I was miserable. When I shared this experience with a running buddy of mine, I learned she’d experience side-effects (face and hand swelling) from drinking it, and then yet another friend also had some repeatable (read: definitely from the product) GI issues. These are two runners who are very similar to me, in their nutritional needs, training, and ability to assess variables.
Context is everything.