Sunday, September 11, 2005

Citizen Journalism (without the blog)

Apparently, you don't need a blog to be a citizen journalist. I recently learned about a new (to me) kind of citizen journalism when I received an email from Jerry Weissman, author of In the Line of Fire: How to Handle Tough Questions...When It Counts. Here's the opening sentence of the email:

Several of your Amazon reviewer colleagues have given highly favorable reviews to my forthcoming book, In the Line of Fire: How to Handle Tough Questions… When it Counts.  I would be honored if you would consider adding your review to that list.

The email included how I could secure a copy of the book and accompanying DVD if I promised a review. I replied that I would be happy to review both and sure enough, they arrived at my doorstep within a week.

My first thought is that this is an extremely effective promotional technique. Although nothing in either the email or the package sought to influence my review, the fact that he's mailing these for free to Amazon reviewers can't hurt the reviewer's perception of the author. If you send it to enough, odds are such that more of your reviews will be positive than negative. In fact, most of Weissman's reviews at Amazon are five out of five stars, so it appears to be working.

WeissmanBut, just how valuable is a positive review on Amazon? The best example Chris Anderson gave of his concept of The Long Tail was another book, Touching the Void, that was resurrected by Amazon. Even though it was by associating it with another popular book rather than reviews, the same web site was at the root.

In addition, although a review in the New York Times may be read by millions, it won't be staring in the face of someone contemplating an online purchase. Be honest. Have you ever purchased a book on Amazon without reading at least one review?

As for Weissman's book, an initial scan captured my interest, but I've been too busy to write my review. I'll let you know once I've finished it. As for citizen journalism, I guess you don't need a blog. Who knew?

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