By GolfSpyT on 7/21/11
[Editor's Note - The other day I posted a response (here) to a series of articles on MyGolfSpy.com about the inner workings of the golf equipment review business. MyGolfSpy asked to respond to my critique- and who am I to pass up free content?! I don't want to turn this into a huge back and forth, so this will be my only response to this. Frankly, besides a couple small points I think MyGolfSpy and oobgolf are very similar in who we are and what our mission is- so there isn't much to argue with. Enjoy- and thanks to MyGolfSpy for the intriguing series and willingness to clarify their remarks.]
First, a big thanks to Andrew and to everyone else who took the time to read the entire series. I know it was a lot.
I should also say that I am a fan and a user of oobgolf. More to the point, although I was talking about sites "like" oobgolf (golf sites) you are not specifically among those I was talking about.
Though not important to the crux of my arguments, I can assure you that Quantcast's numbers for MyGolfSpy are nowhere in the ballpark of correct. My experience has been that Quantcast's numbers are accurate when you have their tracking bits in your code. We do not. The numbers Quantcast provides for our site are wholly inaccurate. Like I believe most do, we rely on Google Analytics to provide our traffic numbers.
Regarding the dollar figure I threw out in the sentence you quoted; While you and others may believe that was simply hyperbole, that number was derived from a representative of a mid-tier OEM who contacted us earlier this year. Based on the number quoted, a 50K annual projection falls somewhere towards the high middle of the range for premium OEM ad placement. We have had similar offers in the past from other OEMs, so it's safe to say it wasn't a one-time anomaly. When you consider that many sites (not just golf sites) have 3 such ads "above the fold", well...do the math. There is real money being made, which is why I believe content is so often watered down and filtered. As we said in the article, we've decided to walk away from those opportunities because they most certainly come with strings attached.
To be clear, no one from any equipment company of any size has ever told me in advance that IF a review is negative there would be consequences. The unfortunately reality is, however, on several occasions when something negative (or even average), or other content they simply didn't like got posted we've gotten emails and phone calls. Sometimes the influence is more subtle "could you please change...", other times it's more direct "we're cutting you off", or "you'll be hearing from our lawyers". Sometimes it happens over reviews, sometimes it happens as a result of articles like the 3 part Truth series and other articles we've published. When you've seen the consequences time and time again, you don't need to be warned in advance. The unspoken realities are ever-present.
There are some very good OEMs to work with, but there are some that cause huge headaches. That said, I'm guessing the company that responded positively to your criticism was not a big OEM. My experience has been that the little guys are the ones who value honest feedback, and have the most genuine interest in improving their products. The more established the brand, the more they tend to believe that they've already got everything figured out (at which point it simply becomes a matter of marketing). In a perfect world, every company would view criticism as an opportunity to improve, but unfortunately that's not the way it works.
As an example (without naming names), last year we published a review of a driver. My recollection of things is that the final score was somewhere in the mid-high 80s (which under our scoring system is high average). We got a phone call a few days later suggesting we weren't being fair (because other media outlets had called the club A+, great, awesome, etc.), and that as a result, they were no longer going to work with us.
In our case, the company wasn't a site sponsor. If they had been, and they had pulled advertising over a review, the financial impact would have been severe. Like everyone else, we do take the equipment they provide, but I think anyone who has ever read our reviews would likely agree that it holds no influence - especially under our review system where, in addition to myself, a minimum of 5 other guys with no affliation to MyGolfSpy performance test the clubs on our simulators. The reality is there are enough golf clubs released every year that if one, two, three, or four OEMs refuse to participate, there's always plenty to fill their spots.
Ultimately we'd like not to rely on OEMs to provide gear. We'd prefer to buy it all ourselves (the Consumer Reports model). That takes a huge budget, and we're simply not there yet.
I do take objection with your suggestion that we're simply in this to make money. Guys who are in it for the money don't write 3 part series about how money influences content. If money were the end game, we'd have long since shut our mouths and put up the big banner ads. There are plenty of guys succeeding to varying degrees by following that script. While I personally applaud their success, we're committed to following the road less traveled and seeing where it takes us.
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as a mygolfspy regular and an oober, I am glad to see the responses on both sides, you guys are not scared to give honest opinions, which is why I am here (along with the hope of scoring free stuff), keep giving us honest reviews, golf tips, news, and allowing anyone to leave feedback and contribute to the site and I think you will continue to grow. we can usually spot the comments from the spammers and the club reps. I am looking forward to the scorgolf review and some shaft reviews.
I still say the best way to know what a club is like and how it performs is to hit it. No amount of reviews will tell you anything different. I don't trust review sites, especially since i was part of one for a while and every thing i had to say was basically chopped down to the good points and THEN posted. I returned the free club to them with an angry letter of resignation.
I agree that the best way to know a club is to hit it, but with the multitude of choices, its nice to whittle them down to the ones that are suitable for your game, and I think that's what mygolfspy and other reviewers are good at, identifying the equipment that is worth checking out and what is not.
birdieXris - This may sound strange from the guy writing the reviews, but I agree. I would never suggest anyone blindly buy a club because MyGolfSpy says it's good. What we try and do is highlight both the good and bad points, and occasionally call attention to a product our readers may never have considered.
Yours is story I heard countless times before (remove the negative, keep it positive, keep everyone happy). I think it's fair to say I don't, and I won't do that.
I appreciate the back and forth, I think it's pretty much settled now. I trust oobgolf, and hearing the follow-up from mygolfspy will probably increase my willingness to check out their site. So GolfSpyT, be sure to thank Andrew for the publicity!
+1 to both sides. I enjoyed the GS articles and responses here. Good to know some people can stand up for something.
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