The Truth - My Thoughts
By Kickntrue on 7/19/11
MyGolfSpy.com recently ran a series of 3 articles on the golf club review business. I found them quite interesting, but felt they painted a picture of "MyGolfSpy vs The World" when it comes to how golf sites work and I wanted to at least give my perspective.
If you'd like to read the articles first you can (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), but here's the brief summary; major golf brands use their massive marketing budgets to ensure that their golf clubs get great reviews online by paying golf blogs and sites to give positive reviews of their products. The author goes into more detail than that- but that's his real point, that nothing you read on a golf site is legit because it's sponsored and an OEM will pull their money if anything bad is ever said about them.
I don't consider oobgolf a review site, but we do have reviews and have relationships with major and smaller OEMS's so I do feel qualified to at least share an opinion. With 5 years in the golf industry and building one of the largest non major-media golf sites on the internet oobgolf has no problem receiving gear directly from companies to review and keep (which most of the time we give away). Never- from the beginning of oob, have we ever been offered a dollar for a positive (or any) review on our site. Obviously that means we've never received a dollar for a review on our site either. What I can't figure out from MyGolfSpy's article is, if he's not talking about sites like oobgolf, who's he talking about?
It's seems pretty clear he's talking about smaller golf sites and blogs, not major-media and frankly, it makes me feel like I'm missing out on something.
Think about this. What if a single honest sentence in a review meant a golf company would never send you another piece of equipment? What if telling the truth meant a $50,000 pay cut?I probably know more about internet economics than I do golf, and one of the biggest myths of the internet is that there is money flying around everywhere. It's just not true. I have a very hard time believing, unless the marketing departments at these OEM's are just completely clueless that anyone could be making that kind of money with a golf blog from even a very big advertisers.
Let's take MyGolfSpy.com for example. It's a pretty big golf blog, well known by those who frequent the golf scene. According to Quantcast.com, a fairly reliable source for comparing internet traffic MyGolfSpy receives about 17,000 visitors per month, with max months of 24,000. Now, admittedly, sites like Quantcast don't always accurately predict your numbers, but it's close. For the sake of argument though, let's say it's off by half- and in reality MyGolfSpy gets 35k visitors monthly, with peak months of 50k visitors. We'll give them 6 peak months, and 6 other months. That means in the course of the year they're getting around (6 x 35k) + (6 x 50k) = 510,000 visitors. I'm not going to do a full breakdown of how CPM and online advertising works (read up here if you want), but let's say they make an average of $8/CPM which would be VERY good on average (A banner or special ad may make more, but the smaller ads wouldn't get close). Each visitor probably visits about 3 pages per visit and each page may have 2 ads on it that actually have to do with an OEM. That means a site like MyGolfSpy MAY make about $24k from advertising from an OEM and that's being SUPER generous with all of their numbers. If they're getting more than that... well, I guess oob isn't talking to the right suckers.
Now- some will argue that getting the gear to review is the payment, and if you don't pay that's kind of the same thing. It's a fair argument and one that holds more weight the smaller the site is. Honestly, at the beginning of oob, each time a new set of clubs or a driver came, it felt like Christmas morning. In most cases, that was because that club would end up for at least a fair period of time in my actual bag. Things don't work like that around here anymore- but I'd be remiss not to mention it.
That said- it still goes back to this one fact for me- I know a lot of people at a lot of big companies at this point, and never has a single person ever made even a subtle implication that a negative review would result in the end of a relationship. On the contrary, I've had people tell me what they liked was our honestly, even in negativity and that they'd like to send us more stuff for our opinions. One person told me our negative review (maybe our harshest ever on the site) was the first thing that came up on Google, even ahead of their own product page. They didn't hate me... they told me they used the feedback on tweaks to the product and asked me to review their new offering to see if it changed my opinion.
I realize I'm just one site and we're just a couple people, so the stuff that MyGolfSpy is talking about may in fact happen, but while I find his series of articles very interesting, I do think they are a bit sensationalized. Why? Because he's into making money on the internet which means in the end- it's not about OEMs paying you for reviews, it's about pageviews and CPMs and the best thing that can happen for the site is that it get's linked all over the net and makes him a couple more cents at a time.
MyGolfSpy - "The Truth" Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
[ comments ]
Well put, sir.
I have to agree Andrew. While I do believe the larger OEM's can out advertise the smaller golf companies and basically stuff their product down your throught, I don't believe alot of sights would just write positive reviews to get money. Golfspy has made some enemies in the business and they are trying to get their viewpoint across to their readers. I do believe that alot of quality equipment does not get mention because the advertising budget isn't big enough for these small companies. I just hope people realize that there is alot of great equipment out there and we should do more research on a product than just listen to the tour pro commercial. If it wasn't for this site, I would have never found out about Terry's company.
dag nabbit-please forgive the gramatical errors in my post. It was a rush job because it's time for lunch.
great article, quite the eye opener.
I read that article as saying the big OEMs pay big money to the large/major golf websites and publishers (i.e. Golf Digest, Golf World, golf.com, etc) and that the reviews are often more than favorable. I don't think that will come as a surprise to anyone.
I agree with jrbizzle. The point was that major golf magazines/websites never give even mediocre reviews on equipment, let alone bad reviews. Everything gets a gold/silver medal with no score or ranking attached, and it's all glowing remarks. The only "negative" statements are usually regarding graphics/colors, options available, or that something is too game improvement/better player focused. It's all fluff! According to Golf Digest or Golf magazine, there hasn't been a mediocre piece of golf equipment made in the last 5 years!
The article surmises that this is the result of all of the advertising dollars involved and the fear that that the big OEMs will pull those dollars if a review is negative. Therefore everything is the best club/ball/bag/grip ever. It's hard to be completely objective with that much money on the line. That's why the reviews should be taken with a grain of salt.
I'm not sure what sites are being referred to either unless it's referring to the large magazines.
I participate in two different review sites (one has been around for a year - myrtlegolfreviews.com and one is launching within the month - freshgolfreviews.com) and we have never been offered any compensation for reviews. MyGolfSpy is the only site that I know of that will take money for providing a review (it costs $350).
Every of the companies that we have worked with have been extremely helpful and has been very ethical in their approach. We have never been "persuaded" to do anything other than give honest reviews.
Another interesting aspect of our review sites is that the majority of the reviews are very positive. This isn't so much of a desire to please the courses and manufacturers - it's more that we only spend the time to review the things that we are really excited about and interested in. The reviews are still honest and valuable - we just have bias toward good product :)
I don't put a lot of stock in anyone's reviews... positive or negative. The fact of the matter is that a review is an opinion. 2 people reviewing an identical item can come away with 2 completely different views of the product.
If you want to give me good info, though, I'd rather hear about what you didn't like. Negative reviews are a much better indicator of the quality of an item. If the best "bad" thing you can come up with is that you don't like the color of the stock grip, well then that's something I may want to look at. On the other hand, if the head flies off after 4 shots, I think I might want to know that, too.
I have no doubt that review sites that accept advertising dollars from the companies they review are biased, and will bend over backwards not to upset the money tree. I'd bet that golf.com or golf digest (or whoever) review alot more equipment than shows up in their "club guides", but they only publish the positives, so that they don't upset the advertisers.
If you want a truly honest review of a club, head to the golf shop, and hit the damn thing yourself. That's the only way to know if it's right for you.
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