Opinion | The slew of promoted Dyson YouTube videos spotlights a growing problem in the review community
Where do you go to get an expert opinion on the latest tech? While I hope you would visit Notebookcheck regularly and check out our reviews (yes, that’s a shameless promotion), I also know the majority of people turn to video reviews. There’s a good reason for that: a video can be more entertaining and easier to digest than a written article. You can passively watch or listen to a video review and still catch the main points, but the written word demands active attention.
YouTube is undoubtedly the king of the platform, and in that kingdom are lords and ladies that command wide audiences in the tech world. YouTubers like iJustine, Austin Evans, Linus Tech Tips, and Dave 2D each have well over one million subscribers. It’s obvious that these channels are highly influential in the electronics purchasing decisions of thousands of consumers. That’s why the deluge of sponsored videos from Dyson that hit YouTube yesterday is concerning.
Yesterday, at least 5 major YouTube tech channels posted videos about the new Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute cordless vacuum. Each of these was sponsored by Dyson as noted or annotated in the video descriptions from the respective channels. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing a sponsored video in order to pay the bills, it raises some eyebrows that these channels (which typically review things like smartphones and laptops) chose to review a vacuum cleaner.
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To be clear, the Cyclone V10 looks like an excellent vacuum cleaner. However, each of these videos portray the vacuum as a “must have” item. Here’s the main problem: these are not impartial reviews. These channels were paid to promote the Dyson Cyclone V10 in a positive light without any of the criticisms necessary for an unbiased review. The reviews are fairly shallow, consisting of reading off marketing specs and demonstrating the vacuum in easy conditions (like cleaning dirt off a flat surface). Going by these videos, an unwary viewer might think that the Cyclone V10 is the absolute best vacuum cleaner in the world and has no problems. That might be the case, but as anyone who has used any piece of tech for more than a month will tell you, there is no perfect piece of technology. Every device has its shortcomings and flaws, but these videos largely ignore those. Most do not even mention negatives about the device, like its relatively short 60-minute battery life or extremely high cost. There exist competent cordless vacuum cleaners at less than half the price of the Cyclone V10 that would be more than good enough for most consumers, but these are not mentioned.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with doing a sponsored video to cover costs and staff salaries needed to produce the high-quality videos that these channels provide for free. However, the advertorial nature of these videos is disappointing. They mostly came across as nothing more than a sneaky advertisement for a $700 vacuum cleaner, and one that would likely be overkill for the average consumer.
It's common practice for companies to send free products to reviewers in exchange for coverage. Sometimes these reviewers also receive additional compensation from the company. However, it should be noted that these products may come with a stringent set of "review guidelines" that prohibit specific negative criticism of the item. Notebookcheck occasionally receives these kinds of requests; a company may want us to review the device in accordance to a script or syllabus they provide in exchange for the product or other additional compensation. Should the review have an accompanying required outline, we turn down the offer in order to maintain reviewer integrity and to present the most unbiased information we possibly can.
This is not the first time reviews of this nature proliferated the Tech YouTuber community, but it is one of the most egregious. There is a growing trend toward video reviews that are paid for by the manufacturer of the reviewed device. Such a relationship could alter the impartiality of a reviewer and shine a glowing light on a mediocre or bad product. It is for this exact reason that certain YouTubers, such as Lon Seidman, clarify at the start of each review exactly how they came into possession of the device. We also disclose the source of our devices at the end of each review. If anything, the “Dysonpocalypse” of yesterday should act as a wakeup call for viewers of YouTube tech reviews to do additional research outside of their favorite tech personalities.
There are some things that readers and viewers can do to guard themselves against promotions masquerading as reviews. First, find out if the content in question is a legitimate review or if it was paid for by a specific sponsor. Next, do some research on the content creator. How did they obtain the product being reviewed and is this information disclosed? Finally, keep in mind that sponsored content is much more likely to have a slant or bias.
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