I get a ton of press releases in my inbox daily. Most of them silly, but a few catch my eye. The other day I received a press release from TestRider.com a new site that will provide video reviews of bikes and accessories from experts and let users rate and decide.
Sounds cool, so I checked it out. The site was featuring a video review of the new 2008 S-Works Transition Time Trial bike. While the review was well produced and the reviewer seemed credible, it felt more like an infomercial than a review. I don't want to be overly harsh here since reviews are difficult to do well and nobody does them perfectly, but I would like to provide a bit of constructive criticism since I'd like to see this site do well in the future.
Why should we care?
Quite simply, it's time the bike review evolves into three dimensions and breaks beyond the 2-d world of the printed page in a magazine, the gratuitous "sneak-peek" bike porn photos found on blogs, and the sometimes hit-or-miss reviews of MTBR.com. Yes. Testrider.com is on to something with their professional quality video reviews and user ratings, but they need to hold back their launch until they do most of the following:
1) Give us all sides in your reviews; pros and cons, not just the pros. Of the four reviews currently on the site, there were no critical words about any of the products. The reviewer seemed to give the new Sram Rival road gruppo a perfect 10. What will the higher-end Sram Force group get, an 11? Give us the con side too and a basis for comparison.
2) Change that proprietary video viewer out for one that's shareable. For one thing, it's too small and there aren't enough user options. But the main thing is that it must be shareable if you want it to become viral. Better yet, post it on YouTube and embed their viewer on your site. People will find your site through YouTube and spread the word for you.
3) Each review should have it's own page with the video embedded and written specifications as well. How about some links to where you can buy it? This could even mean additional revenue to TestRider.com if it uses affiliates.
4) Allow users to submit video reviews as well. It looks like user reviews are planned for the site, but I would recommend that they be more than just user ratings for products you review. Maybe hold contests for users to submit their own video reviews and you'll get more content faster and a more highly engaged user base.
Ok...there you have it. My four-step plan to help TestRider.com take the bike review to the next level. I'm sure a lot of hard work went in to the four reviews that have been completed already, but you need to temper the excitement and take a deep breath. This press release was a bit premature. Maybe implement a few of the suggestions here (and possibly in the comments) and hit the streets strong in a couple of weeks. I think it will be welcome.