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Canon sponsored content on DPReview


Andrew Reid
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33 minutes ago, scotteverett said:

Hey all, I work at DPReview, so figured I chime in and perhaps dispel a few myths. 

sponsored content and the end of the world as we know it...

Yes, we do sponsored content. Most for-profit publishers do now, as banner ads do not work, and marketers are realizing this and switching gears. But it is not some clandestine operation, a complex web of ethical quagmires. DPReview hires scientists, PHDs, literally, to design our camera tests. We then perform those tests and write about real world usability to create a review, which is a combination of facts and opinions. Whether our camera testers get everything right (with their real world usage opinions) is up for debate, but we strive to ensure our reviews align with the science in such a way that questions about editorial integrity (very common well before we started sponsored content) do not hold weight. Go back to any review we've done and look at the data. You will bore yourself to death looking at test charts before you discover any bias towards a brand.

Hey Scott.

This sums up quite well what I loved about DPReview's editorial and why I was so proud to be contributor for those years. I looked upon DPR as something of a leading light, the most respected review site for digital cameras, one of the first, and that's why I hold it to a higher standard than others. I care passionately enough about it to get upset and to shout about it when it goes wrong and I think it's in danger.

DPR did go in-depth, especially on the technical side and still does.

If the new advertising in the form of sponsored content also did this to the same standard, then the quality would remain and not hurt the brand as much but even then there's a problem, because it would only work as long as it was impartial, which advertising never is and never can be.

Flick through an old fashion magazine from the 1970's and it is almost ALL advertising yet readers still bought it in droves.... you'll see a lot of high quality advertising, fantastic photos (David Bailey, Helmut Newton) and minimal words, minimal editorial pieces! I am not against advertising culture entirely or with zero tolerance of ads and I'm not a communist although I do live in Berlin :)

The problem I have is that more and more the manufacturers seem to be the boss, the paymaster and the editors, if not directly then certainly in subliminally controlling ways like with the PR organised events and it is wrong that this appears to be our only choice as reviewers if we want to get our hands on new gear at the earliest opportunity.

We join the hype train by doing this and we trade our credibility, or at least it looks that way for the readers.

I am open for a civilised debate on what we can do in the industry to recover some integrity in what we do. There needs to be some collective action.

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Taking a step back, I can speak personally to how the advertising campaigns (including sponsored content) come to fruition because I manage them (I am the product manager). The reality is that camera manufacturers, if they are smart, realize they cannot put lipstick on a pig, no matter how hard they try. So they are resorting to finding ways to actually engage people. It's the early days, so a lot of the sponsored content is still shit. But the vision is that publishers influence brands to actually make content worth looking at, with the goal that the quality of their product, the soul of their brand (if there is one), actually resonates in an honest way. But it will always be, in some way, advertising. Maybe one day they will turn the corner and actually make content people want to watch/read on the regular, but only time will tell.

So the PR companies and manufacturers are after our jobs Scott.

And we are going to just let them take over on the content side?

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So when we decided to go down this road, we asked a few basic Qs. What could we make that would be worthwhile? How could we do it in a way that we were able to make videos we wanted to make, but could not afford to do so. And one of the first roads we went down was having pro photographers use cameras in the real world, and make little short films showcasing their experiences. On the whole, I think those videos have worked out well, we have been able to showcase photographer workflows, tell stories about real people and places, have cameras used in real world shooting situations, and on the whole, do all of this with almost zero manufacturer interaction. There is a ton of room for improvement, and I talk with visitors all the time about what else we could try.

But their purpose, if sponsored, is to sell a camera.

For me that is not the purpose of what we do.

I hate this insidious influence.

If we for example are to put out educational content for instance and it is paid for by Canon, then whichever manufacturer sponsors us the most or pays the most, the more content on that particular brand there will be, and there's yet another form of bias. Even if the content itself had zero bias, the money still control the agenda.

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But alas, the topic at hand, we also decided to do "Native Advertising", where we have no role in creation of the content, and simply provide real estate for a brand to promote content they have created. As I mentioned above, the vision is that this type of content will get better over time, but the camera industry is a few years behind the broader CE industry. I remember a good 4-5 years ago Intel sponsored a series of short films telling the story of a handful of creatives that were excellent, beautifully shot, and overall just worthwhile to watch. There is no reason the Camera industry cannot get there, but as I said above, time will tell.

It's our job to create excellent content that's worth watching, not Intel's.

By taking their money, you are trading your position as a content creator with them and one day you will be without a job.

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DPReview staff are photographers, no really, I swear.

We are not winning any World Press Photo awards by any means, that's for sure, but we are enthusiasts just like our visitors for the most part.

Of course! I understand that and always have.

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It's an important point because I think when the topic of editorial integrity, advertising, relationships with the brands, and all of these themes come up, it gets lost.

That's because it's being traded in bit by bit.

Your voice replaced by somebody else's.

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Maybe I'm an optimist, but I like to think that generally people are "good", and difficult to corrupt, and that set of assumption definitely applies to my coworkers at DPReview. Our guys are using cameras every day, shooting photos, and spending a ridiculous # of hours every year thinking about cameras. The last thing they would ever want is to feel like everything they were doing was compromised, without purpose. It would be soul crushing, demotivating, and completely unsustainable. So yeah, I understand the need to be skeptical, critical, and diligent in pushing for transparency in journalism, and we are no different. But aside from the more potent reasons I just mentioned, there are also the legal realities of sponsored content; we are legally required to disclose when a brand is involved with something that goes on our site, and we follow it to a T because, quite frankly, the world of hurt we'd face if we didn't would be far worse than a 3% increase in advertising revenue.

If it's only a 3% increase in ad revenue and you're owned by Amazon, why do it at all? Why take such a big risk with the brand for the sake of bowing to the manufacturers and 0.001% of their overall ad spend budget? Tell them to fuck off!

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DPReview hates EOSHD, and had a bitter falling out with Andrew Reid.

Simply put, this is just not the case. We obviously respected EOSHD and Andrew as we tapped him to be involved in our efforts to begin talking more seriously about video capture. The reality of our publishing process is that it involves several layers of editing, and Andrew is not the first writer we've worked with that experienced this process as frustrating, and wont be the last. Hell, I even tried to write a few articles when I first joined DPR and definitely pulled out a few hairs when my words and voice were changed to be in line with DPR's style. But editing is a necessary step in the publishing process, and in the end, even if DPR and Andrew didn't align on how to do this, none of us here view the situation as anything other than a freelancer not working out, it happens ALL THE TIME. There doesn't need to be a villain. Blogging is a much less rigid workflow and half of the writers we work with are much happier in that context. It makes sense. No hard feelings are needed. 

Thanks for the message on here Scott, I do appreciate it.

If I can ever mend my relationship with DPReview I would.

I have friends there and the only bad words exchanged were with Barney and Simon Joinson.

In the end the buck stops with them.

If they are going to take the site in this direction, they know my opinion on how wrong this is and why it won't turn out the way they hoped.

They have a responsibility as the senior figures to change tac.

Their responsibility to the readers should come before their financial obligations to advertisers anyway, because without any readers there won't be any advertisers!

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The gist of it being that if we want a free review site, we can either click on their ads a lot or use their affiliate links to guy gear or except some sponsored content. Now, even if you believe that their findings are susceptible to manufacturer influence, you can always compare lab tests and examples and videos and review the camera by your own standards (so keeping the site alive and free is in everyone's interest).

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8 hours ago, JurijTurnsek said:

The gist of it being that if we want a free review site, we can either click on their ads a lot or use their affiliate links to guy gear or except some sponsored content. Now, even if you believe that their findings are susceptible to manufacturer influence, you can always compare lab tests and examples and videos and review the camera by your own standards (so keeping the site alive and free is in everyone's interest).

Yes poor Amazon owned DPReview. They must be really strapped for cash!

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I used to work in the world of obscure international trade shows and magazines, first as an ad/space salesman, later on the operational side. The magazines - with enticing titles like 'World Plastics and Rubber Technology', 'Railway Interiors' and 'Automotive Testing International' were 100% advertiser-led. They had editorial staff, who called themselves journalists - but in reality they were employed to put the words of the advertisers and the exhibitors into a form that looked like journalism but was, in fact, thinly disguised advertorial. There was absolutely no way in the world that any of those magazines would have criticised any advertiser, exhibitor, or potential client of the future - the companies in those industries could have caused the immolation of a small country and the only news about them in our mags would have been about their latest widget. This became especially pernicious once the publishers all jumped on the (far more lucrative) expo business as potential exhibitors would be offered puff pieces in the magazines as an incentive to book stand space.

That, I'm afraid, is the end game in non-news journalism once it becomes advertiser led. In fact, it even happens in pure news as well - witness the ongoing reluctance, for instance, of the Daily Telegraph to publish articles critical of China in the light of its regular, highly profitable, supplements sponsored by that country.

Personally I stopped taking much notice of DPR once Amazon bought it as, having the experience outlined above, I couldn't see how a website owned by one of the largest camera retailers could maintain integrity in the long term. Whether or not they actually have started to water down adverse opinions of cameras or their manufacturers, the fact is that I can no longer be sure that they don't. And that's the pity of it.

I don't make my living with cameras any more - it's a fun hobby, but an incredibly expensive one (well it isn't actually - I've got friends who are into cars and motorbikes who will happily spend tens of thousands of pounds on their passions and no-one really bats an eyelid - I spend £3K on a camera and people think I'm insane) so I need to know that the sources of information I use to guide my purchases are going to give me the bad news as well as the good. I no longer bother with any of the 'magazine' style sites at all - I research potential purchases here and on DVX User and get opinions, in the round, that I can trust.

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@Tim Sewell

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They had editorial staff, who called themselves journalists - but in reality they were employed to put the words of the advertisers and the exhibitors into a form that looked like journalism but was, in fact, thinly disguised advertorial.

Very good description of the problem. "There's honor among thieves" - that's not a special DPReview problem...It's the problem of 90% of publishers. That's why I like the "affiliate links reviewers". Transparent claims and a mostly clear business concept: people liking their reviews and tipps, can help keeping the service free by buying items through affiliate links.

The advertorials / paid editorials visualize the problem, that classical advertitzing is dead. People simply hate unsubstancial and unrealistic marketing bullshit. "Sponsored posts" is the last best hope of  a completly sick marketing industry. Nothing wrong about making money: but please stop crying out incredible marketing buillshit. Just try to inform and not fool potential customers

BTW: Take a look at the users comments on YT. ZERO credibility for this Canon video post. Z E R O

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5 hours ago, Arikhan said:

@Tim Sewell

Very good description of the problem. "There's honor among thieves" - that's not a special DPReview problem...It's the problem of 90% of publishers. That's why I like the "affiliate links reviewers". Transparent claims and a mostly clear business concept: people liking their reviews and tipps, can help keeping the service free by buying items through affiliate links.

The advertorials / paid editorials visualize the problem, that classical advertitzing is dead. People simply hate unsubstancial and unrealistic marketing bullshit. "Sponsored posts" is the last best hope of  a completly sick marketing industry. Nothing wrong about making money: but please stop crying out incredible marketing buillshit. Just try to inform and not fool potential customers

BTW: Take a look at the users comments on YT. ZERO credibility for this Canon video post. Z E R O

There will come a time - might even be here in part with product reviews - when an army of people will be employed simply to comment on whatever videos their masters tell them to, saying exactly what they command them to. This already happens in the world of political 'journalism' and anywhere the powers that be have an agenda to push and truth to hide. The YouTube comments section that you mention absolutely stinks of fanboyism at the very best and something approaching mass sock accounts at worst.

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40 minutes ago, Davey said:

There will come a time - might even be here in part with product reviews - when an army of people will be employed simply to comment on whatever videos their masters tell them to, saying exactly what they command them to. This already happens in the world of political 'journalism' and anywhere the powers that be have an agenda to push and truth to hide. The YouTube comments section that you mention absolutely stinks of fanboyism at the very best and something approaching mass sock accounts at worst.

It's already upon us...

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@Davey

So, you BELIEVE that the guy sold his pro equipment and shoots now with the 80D? Sorry, when Canon states things like this, I have to laugh. We own over 60 (!) Canon major lenses, ALL Canon Cameras since 2001 (excepting the new 5D IV and 1DX II) and I love Canon. But this statement is bullshit and a sign, that this company is on the wrong way. That's why now we are changing  (for stills) completely to Nikon, after 25 years + of Canon. Enough is enough...Vastly overpriced products, poor dynamic range and the ultraconservative attitude make Canon unbuyable for us. The 80D? A good camera for 2003. Simply 3 years too late and - excepting DPAF - no reason to buy at this price. And some morons state, they would sell exceptional cameras for filming with the 80D... Of course... :-))))

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4 hours ago, Arikhan said:

@Davey

So, you BELIEVE that the guy sold his pro equipment and shoots now with the 80D? Sorry, when Canon states things like this, I have to laugh. We own over 60 (!) Canon major lenses, ALL Canon Cameras since 2001 (excepting the new 5D IV and 1DX II) and I love Canon. But this statement is bullshit and a sign, that this company is on the wrong way.

I totally agree. It's a bare faced lie in the video, all an act.

Have we come to the point now where manufacturers have to lie to us to sell us a camera?

The line between PR and editorial and advert has not just been blurred, they have brought the suspension of disbelief from the advertising world into some kind of 'reality' piece - which attempts to fool us even more.

All this is severely backfiring on Canon, to the point where I may even consider selling my 1D X Mark II. I don't want to deal with unethical companies and it isn't the first time Canon has lied either. They did so to me via an official manager, when the 5D Mark III was originally released it only shot 720p via HDMI... they said the hardware wasn't capable of 1080p then 2 years later updated the firmware to enable it.

Honesty is important.

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@Andrew Reid

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Honesty is important.

That's the point. And - as you have mentionned - it's not the first time this company lies. Confidence is important too...And there are people who don't want to give their money to companies they don't trust. Instead of investing in blatant marketing lies and spreading noncredible, bullshit advertorials, Canon could invest money in a real 1080p resolution in their DSLR cameras...Brave new world...

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13 hours ago, Tim Sewell said:

I used to work in the world of obscure international trade shows and magazines, first as an ad/space salesman, later on the operational side. The magazines - with enticing titles like 'World Plastics and Rubber Technology', 'Railway Interiors' and 'Automotive Testing International' were 100% advertiser-led. They had editorial staff, who called themselves journalists - but in reality they were employed to put the words of the advertisers and the exhibitors into a form that looked like journalism but was, in fact, thinly disguised advertorial. There was absolutely no way in the world that any of those magazines would have criticised any advertiser, exhibitor, or potential client of the future

Very interesting post Tim.

The first part of it you describe is what I mean when I refer to "honesty". For me, honesty in editorial is about emphasis. You can emphasise the positive or the negative. When you take out the negative, readers switch off and they may as well read the manufacturer's website instead or the box.

There's a new form of advertorial called a 'balanced review', which are actually 80% positive and 20% negative. That the negatives exist at all in these review is seemingly all they require for 'balance' and I've lost count of the number of times people have mistaken a glossy advertorial piece for a 'balanced review'. It's very easy to do. Likewise it's easy to mistake passion and genuine enthusiasm in the product, for selling too. There are camera reviewers that get accused of this a lot.

In the end it comes down to a creative business model which doesn't compromise your content. The mission should be to say anything - even rude things (which often are entertaining and add colour to the debate over a camera) - without links to a manufacturer or PR people.

There are not enough business models being tried where the reviewer is completely unattached to a manufacturer, and whenever they get big enough, out come the offers from the PR people to the reviewer in an attempt to get them to self-censor.

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On 12/21/2016 at 5:41 PM, scotteverett said:

Hey all, I work at DPReview, so figured I chime in and perhaps dispel a few myths. 

 

For the sake of transparency,

it would be nice to note the lenses the director used to shoot the video.

This is common practice I have seen on other Canon videos. This video has a Canon logo on it, so there.

And if Canon does not do this, it should be clear in the copy published on DPReview.

It would be even nicer if you noted that the director used a huge and expensive

Canon cinema lens for the majority of the shots: a 35mm T1.5 that costs 4,600 dollars!!!!

Screen Shot 2016-12-23 at 6.43.30 PM.png

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3 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

Very interesting post Tim.

The first part of it you describe is what I mean when I refer to "honesty". For me, honesty in editorial is about emphasis. You can emphasise the positive or the negative. When you take out the negative, readers switch off and they may as well read the manufacturer's website instead or the box.

There's a new form of advertorial called a 'balanced review', which are actually 80% positive and 20% negative. That the negatives exist at all in these review is seemingly all they require for 'balance' and I've lost count of the number of times people have mistaken a glossy advertorial piece for a 'balanced review'. It's very easy to do. Likewise it's easy to mistake passion and genuine enthusiasm in the product, for selling too. There are camera reviewers that get accused of this a lot.

In the end it comes down to a creative business model which doesn't compromise your content. The mission should be to say anything - even rude things (which often are entertaining and add colour to the debate over a camera) - without links to a manufacturer or PR people.

There are not enough business models being tried where the reviewer is completely unattached to a manufacturer, and whenever they get big enough, out come the offers from the PR people to the reviewer in an attempt to get them to self-censor.

Your point is controversial but quite of an interesting perspective in any case, kudos man! :-)

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@Tim Sewell

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That, I'm afraid, is the end game in non-news journalism once it becomes advertiser led.

Exactly. But the audience has the power in its hands: add blockers & co are your friends. From economic point of view, users can vote against this such called "journalism" by blocking ALL ads and NOT clicking on any sort of affiliate link. But there is another site too: authentic, credible work and sites MUST be supported. As said, it's up to us users...
Same as buying cameras: it's all about our decision to spend money on gear of manufacturer A, B or C. Things will only change, if we do NOT give manunfacturers our money. Miserable service? Don't buy! Fooling enthusiasts? Don't buy! Poor specs? Don't buy! etc....or buy cheap...the only possibility to take influence on them is MONEY...

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Still remember Nokia? Years ago, Nokia was the number 1 in mobile phone market...Within 5 years they were blown away by other manufacturers. That's today's economy: From hero to zero (and viceversa) in 5 years.
Canon is at the moment the number one in digital camera market, without doubt. But their ultraconservative attitude and unreasonableness remembers very strong about Nokia's haughtiness before their spectacular fall down. Consumers and many market trends are unpredictable nowadays, so manufacturers always should consider this...Credibility and an excellent image as an innovative manufacturer hearing to users demands (and not lying on them) stay, market trends and consumer behaviour come and go...

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Speaking of Nokia, I remember them making a big deal out of the cameras on their phones. Now, sure they were amongst the best, if not thé best, but then they would say 'ha! This was shot entirely on a Nokia' and then there was like insane rigging, lensing and staging involved, nobody would actually shoot with smartphone that way. Kinda what Eduardo was getting at. It sorta defeats the purpose if you're working around its limitations by covering it up using the best possible pro lighting, equipment, crews et cetera.

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