Last week, I met a guy who was operating an online car blog. What he told me during that meeting made me reflect how online forums, or Web 2.0 technologies in general, are affecting the way consumers buy and the way the media deliver information to the public.
Prospective car buyers, he said, are flocking in huge numbers to online discussion rooms to fish out vital information on the car they are planning to buy instead of just relying on automobile reviews written by motoring journalists.
"People are not stupid to buy something that it is worth millions of pesos just because someone had written in a newspaper or magazine that this car is good because he or she had driven it for a few days," he told me.
Consumers, he added, are now are more discerning and want to get the opinion of a larger number of people. "They put a premium on the feedback from the actual owners of the car models, because it is them who can give an objective appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of the product," he said.
At the risk sounding like a hypocrite and incurring the ire of fellow journalists, I should say that I concur with what the car blogger told me. This is also the reason why I've also stopped reviewing IT gadgets for about four years now. Now, I usually do just a write-up of a product and let others get or try it for themselves.
Even if I've been writing about technology for eight years now, I still feel inadequate in judging if a device is a lemon or not. I certainly don't want to project a know-it-all attitude when in fact, I'm just as ignorant as the guy sitting next to me.
Moreover, it's quite difficult to judge if this phone or that laptop is a five-star technology if the vendor of that product loaned it to me for just a couple of days. And of course, if you write something awful about it, there's always the possibility that you won't be able to lay your hands on a similar gadget again.
But hey, this is just my opinion. Perhaps there would still be a need for advance reviews for various kinds of products, including cars and technology products, to warn the public against cheats and purveyors of poor quality.
The only difference now is that we have online forums. And we should be thankful for that.