Home Critic's Corner

Discuss a review. Provide constructive feedback. Talk to the industry.

Speaking of Martin Colloms....

From his website:

".....a perceived increase in the influence of advertisers on content. Editors will protest that they are well aware of the dangers, that they can resist the pressure, that their advertising department is entirely separated from the editor's office, but the content of many journals would suggest otherwise. Major advertisers appear to extract undue editorial attention, more news copy, a greater number of reviews and these at more depth. After a third of a century in the business

I personally know of a number of occasions where the power of a major advertiser has been brought to bear on freedom of editorial expression. This can take many forms from threats to withdraw advertising revenue, to injunctions to halt the printing, and even lawsuits for claimed damages. Business is business and magazine editorial departments have to tread a fine line. This is where great editors can show their worth. It seems that many editors and contributors are under a tacit agreement not to rock the boat, either that of the audio business in general, and in specific not to imperil their journal. Other more subtle influences may occur.

Contributors, this author included, may enjoy foreign 'fact finding' trips, others may find their attendance at shows, including Japan and the States are paid for by advertisers and show organisers, in return for some report of their sponsor's activities. Audio journals are by no means alone in this respect.

A very few magazines have made it public policy to try and avoid such influences, though the tendency to play safe in review generally holds while that strong financial dependence on audio manufacturer advertising remains in place.

We do not have to look very far to see the effects on much published review opinion. There is frequently a depressing sameness to the review writing and descriptions, a uniformity of approval for nearly everything, a clear lack of committed discrimination for variations in product character, build quality and objective performance.

Unfortunately reviews with weakly expressed opinions may then be dressed up with pseudo scientific bar and pie charts, largely based on guesstimates of aspects of technology, sound quality and technical performance, and taking all into account, both the test lab and the critic are all too often seen to be playing safe.

.....it is because they must respect the relationships which they have so carefully built with the industry. Thus for the example given, when translated into audio terms, you would be lucky if such a magazine dared to differentiate performance by as much as 7%. Defending their position, editors will say that their readers will of course get used to it; that they can and should read between the lines.

Why should they have to? Why can't the contributors tell the truth as they find it?

So, with the various blobs and charts and bars there is a narrow range which the contributors are allowed in practice. Statistically analysed for many magazines and products nearly every product gets 4 out of 5, or 80%, plus or minus a few percent. As there are almost no duds, we must suppose that in many cases these are censored. No less than three editors have explained to me that if a product does really badly they would voluntarily pull the review rather than get into a dispute with the manufacturer.

Some editors have even explained in print that they value a pleasant relationship with the manufacturers, see the advertising as a necessary part of the deal, value their ministrations, trips and extended product loans, and very likely would not dream of severely criticising their products. Indeed one web journal explains that they actively censor in advance copy constituting a poor review, and will only print positive reviews. They explain that they are doing the readers a favour.

I consider that this play safe attitude shown by much of the audio press constitutes a betrayal of the reader, who ultimately is the reason the editorial content appears at all, regardless of who pays for it. The paying reader must be the critic's friend, not a manufacturer or supplier.

Any film, book or theatre or music critic who behaved like many hi fi reviewers would be laughed out of the business. What price A. A. Gill's reputation if he were to sink so low. I value his opinions because he tells it how it is. I expect no less from a good audio critic. "

This post is made possible by the generous support of people like you and our sponsors:
  Michael Percy Audio  

Topic - Speaking of Martin Colloms.... - Isaak J. Garvey 19:15:44 01/26/17 (27)


Post a Message!

Forgot Password?
Moniker (Username):
Password (Optional):
  Remember my Moniker & Password  (What's this?)    Eat Me
E-Mail (Optional):
Message:   (Posts are subject to Content Rules)
Optional Link URL:
Optional Link Title:
Optional Image URL:
Upload Image:
E-mail Replies:  Automagically notify you when someone responds.