Found this interesting opinion piece written by Kara Alaimo and published on CNN.com…
The author of this piece focuses on the issue of “spam” reviews, often negative ones, presented online regarding published -or about to be published- works.
In this case, the focus is on Goodreads.com but it could well apply to movie review sites like rottentomatoes.com as well.
Because the internet isn’t all that well regulated and people can post reviews on works they haven’t necessarily seen or read or heard, there is a danger that a group of people might post an overwhelming amount of (often negative) reviews about a work simply because they don’t like what the author/director/actor/singer is doing or has done versus present an honest opinion of the work itself.
Ms. Alaimo notes a couple of books dealing with potentially “controversial” topics but it doesn’t have to be so. I recall a few years back when the female-centric Ghostbusters was released and a corner of the internet lost their collective minds feeling that the film was somehow slamming masculinity simply by existing in this form.
Negative and positive reviews of a product, obviously, can play a huge role in whether it succeeds or fails. By posting large amounts of negative reviews, a group of people could ensure that a work fails.
But what if they haven’t read the work? What if they’re upset with what the work is about and doesn’t conform to their world-view?
This is the rub, I suppose. When a website like Goodreads.com, which is devoted to offering readers a chance to critique a book, devolves into questionable reviews, then what purpose does it serve?
Is there an answer?
I noticed on Amazon.com (which owns Goodreads, it should be noted), reviews of novels may have a “Verified Purchase” label which indicates the person reviewing a novel has indeed bought it.
However, this likely only applies to people who purchase said novel through Amazon itself, be it a Kindle work or a physical copy, and doesn’t necessarily apply to someone who might have bought it elsewhere -such as through a bookstore or second hand shop- and were so impressed (or perhaps depressed!) by the work they felt the need to offer their opinion on it.
For example, I love the novel The Far Cry by Fredric Brown. So much so that I went out of my way to write a positive review of it on Amazon.com even though the copy I have was bought years before at a second-hand bookshop and therefore my review didn’t have the “verified purchase” label.
c’est la vie
Either way, there is no easy solution here. The effort it would take to weed out “legitimate” reviews from those that aren’t seems almost impossible to do, and the shame is that perhaps some books that could or should be successful may not be, and vice versa.