Freako–what?–Nomics

Friday, July 22, 2005
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I find this to be a strange post by Freakonomics author Steven Levitt.

I can understand why little-known authors and their friends post reviews of their own books at amazon. Judy Chevalier has a paper that finds that good online reviews sell a surprising number of books. (A bad review supresses sales even more than a good review boosts sales, which also makes sense.)

More puzzling to me is why everyday people post reviews.

Take the latest Harry Potter book, for instance. It has been out about a week. So far there are 1,385 reviews at amazon, and another 385 at bn.com.

What’s in it for reviewer 1,385? It’s not at all obvious. Perhaps reviewers in general want to influence what gets read. But it is hard to believe that one review has much impact in a pile of 1,385 of them, or even among the 295 reviews of Freakonomics at amazon.

No doubt developing a reputation for being a top reviewer is a motivation for some people. Amazon obviously likes to encourage these kind of reviewers by giving frequent reviewers titles like “Top 1000 reviewer.” But this can’t be the motivation for most reviewers either.

Maybe it just feels good to write a review?

I’m puzzled. In the same vein, why would anyone write an article for anything (website, newsletter, publication)? It’s surely not for the $$$$$. The best response, however, is: what’s in it for anyone – such as Levitt – to waste the time writing for a blog? Perhaps the blogger wants to influence how people look at things and/or think? Or maybe the blogger prefers to spend time formulating opinions/thoughts as opposed to watching the garbage on tv? Thus, where’s the rationale in Levitt’s questioning the reasons behind writing book reviews for Amazon? The logic is lost on me. Levitt is confused.

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