A few months ago, Viewpoints invited prominent bloggers to join our community of reviewers. Only their participation would be different. They would test products at the same time. But not like critics working in parallel. This would be social.
When you operate a consumer reviews website, there’s a degree of isolation. Viewpoints is clearly a social site – lots of honest opinion is encouraged. We call the page of our site that is the first step to review writing our “inspiration” page. We love to collect product reviews! But although our 500,000 registered site users clearly have things in common, most have never met.
The idea for a social review
Back in the summer, one of the first ideas from our new general manager of Viewpoints, Denise Chudy, was to create a blogger community at Viewpoints that we could tap for insights and feedback on products. As accomplished bloggers, they could certainly write what they thought about the products on our site and theirs, but what if we could foster an ongoing online conversation?
So that was the inspiration for forming The Viewpoints Blogger Reviews Panel in August. I met with and considered dozens of bloggers before inviting nine women (representing eight blogs) across the U.S. and Canada to participate in this unique project. They review products at the same time. All post reviews on Viewpoints and their own blogs, then gather at a scheduled time in front of their laptop webcams to talk about what they thought. Having a Google Hangout seemed to be the perfect way. Coordinating schedules was a cinch. The conversation would live forever (in theory) on the Viewpoints.com channel on YouTube.
Bloggers working together
What surprised me was the genuine enthusiasm the bloggers showed from day one. I was surprised, not because these aren’t all nice people (they are!), but they have busy lives and lots of blogging commitments. Maintaining a blog is a business. But our program was unique from the start.
Viewpoints requires honest reviews—from everyone who writes on our site. When you don’t pay for the product, your review might be questioned. So while Viewpoints chooses the products they’ll review, then pays all expenses – the bloggers all pick a charity or worthy individual to receive the product when they are done. A win-win. You get thoughtfully considered reviews of an innovative product like the Kindle Paperwhite, and an organization near to the heart of each of the writers also benefits.
The charities that benefit
Arkansas blogger Amy Bradley-Hole will donate her Kindle Paperwhite to her local United Cerebral Palsy. Reading books on eReaders is a big part of its speech therapy program. Blogger Sarah Mock is supporting a private school in her hometown of York (Pa.), Logos Academy. Another Paperwhite will go to the Mothers’ Club Family Learning Center of Pasadena, thanks to California blogger Lian Dolan. The group provides educational and social services to the area’s neediest families. In Utah, blogger Jill Nystul is supporting the Wasatch County Children’s Justice Center, which provides a comfortable atmosphere for alleged victims of child abuse. Mara Shapiro and Randi Chapnik Myers live and blog from Canada. They too will be helping children and parents in crisis by giving their Kindle Paperwhite to the York Central Hospital’s Pediatric Ward Parents Room in Richmond Hill, Ontario. As a lover of books and a supporter of libraries, writer Marci Rich chose the Richmond (Va.) Public Library Foundation. Two of our bloggers, Kathy Zucker and Sheila Hill, had their lives turned upside down by Hurricane Sandy. Their homes are in New Jersey. Kathy plans to give her Kindle to a member of her Metro Moms Network serving hard-hit Hoboken. Likewise, Sheila is still weighing the best recipient, possibly a nearby elementary school that suffered flooding.
Viewpoints looks forward to our next social review which will center in the bloggers’ kitchens: A test of the Panasonic Flash Xpress NB-G110P Toaster Oven. It uses “double infrared light to cook up to 40% faster than conventional toaster ovens.” Pizza anyone?
Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with tablets, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Reviews on Viewpoints
Viewpoints Product Review: The Kindle Paperwhite by Marci Rich
Viewpoints Blogger Review of The Kindle Paper White by Sarah Mock
Product Review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite by Sheila Hill
The New Amazon Kindle Paperwhite by Amy Bradley-Hole
Parenting Product Pick: Light Your Way Through a Hurricane by Kathy Zucker