Sketchy ethics around product reviews

“The saddest thing is how hard it is for everyday people to tell real and fake news apart these days; the situation is the same in the world of product reviews.”

In 2018, I think the trends we’ve been seeing and living for a decade will continue: Ads will get more dire as a source of revenue, eaten up by Facebook and Google, and companies that have over-optimized on bite-sized, free viral content to keep up with falling rates will continue down that path. At the same time, companies — or, at least, those offering the quality of work that is worth paying for — will be more open to pursuing subscriptions and similar models. And more companies will get into formats pairing affiliate marketing with product recommendations, similar to what Wirecutter does under The New York Times.

Unfortunately for readers, most media companies will merely emulate the product-review format and do so in a way that is not so reader focused. Over the past few years, we’ve heard alarming stories of conflicts of interest in many successful publishing houses that are either experienced or learning about this type of content. We hear of deals that are paid for by retailers or manufacturers, not clearly labeled as anything but editorial, that are actually promoting overpriced junk. We hear of ad-sales teams in companies moving hundreds of millions of dollars in recommended products and services who are authorized to bestow editorial awards upon advertisers. And we hear of venture-funded publications that claim to do extensive testing but merely pick popular things off Amazon and present them through a false narrative. We know of these stories because the talent at these companies come to us for jobs when they can’t stand the conflicts of interest anymore — and worse, they say they wouldn’t trust the work their own companies put out into the world when they do their own shopping. Pretty disgusting, huh?

The saddest thing is how hard it is for everyday people to tell real and fake news apart these days; the situation is the same in the world of product reviews. So I think transparency in process, as both service and marketing, will be a critical way for people who do great work to be able to charge for it and separate themselves from the pack, differentiating themselves from business leaders who are too busy looking at their quarterly reports to realize that no one trusts or respects or believes what they’re saying any longer.

Brian Lam founded Wirecutter.

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Jake Levine   The return to now

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Paul Ford   Go global

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Burt Herman   Things get real

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Errin Haines   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals