Ah blog reviews. The life blood of content for many a blogger, happily typing their reviews in return for a freebie and possible promotion on a brand's website. Sometimes hard to spot (no, I don't think putting a tiny asterisk alongside the name of a product really counts as disclosure) and often disappointingly incomplete in their assessment, nevertheless, personally I love to read them.
I'm not sure, though, that I would adapt my buying behaviour as a result of reading a blog review. I find it hard to get excited about the endless swatching on beauty blogs (stripes of product on a blogger's wrist for the uninitiated) and the discussion about tone, texture and packaging when running the gauntlet of Superdrug or Boots on a Saturday afternoon makes it depressingly clear there is little that can be truly classed as new and innovative in the field of cosmetics. It's been a long time since many of us had the time for "NOTD" (nails of the day, I kid you not) or to plan a week's worth of outfits fully accessorized with shoes and bags. (Where did those days go?!).
However, when it comes to restaurant and hotel reviews, I do take notice. And this certainly created problems for French blogger Caroline Doudet who wrote a negative review last August of a restaurant in Aquitaine in South West France. She titled her post with the name of the restaurant and "The Place To Avoid in Cap-Ferret'. Because her blog attracted over 3000 followers the judge ruled that this exacerbated the damage and ordered that the blog post title should be changed so as to be less prominent in Google's search results. Miss Doudet was ordered to pay £1200 in damages plus £800 costs.
According to today's Daily Mail (19/7/2014), the blogger said that "this creates a crime of being too highly ranked on a search engine, or of having too great an influence". The restaurant owner said: "Maybe there were errors in the service, but this article showed in the Google search results and did my business more and more harm".
This is believed to be the first time that an unpaid blogger has had to pay damages for a negative review but, I am sure, it will not be the last. Without seeing the post in question, it is hard to know exactly how fair (or otherwise) Miss Doudet's review was but surely any blogger worth their salt (or search engine results!) knows that reviews should be balanced and fair. I think some bloggers feel they are offering a public service by offering a scathing assessment of their meal or visit - and in some cases, this may be entirely true - however in future we may all need to do a risk assessment on the posts we publish so as to avoid putting anything potentially libellous into the public domain.
Many years in the field of Law (albeit as a marketeer) lead me to believe that it is only a matter of time before negative reviews attract judicial - and financial consequences which will surely outweigh the short lived joy of seeing follower numbers increase on blog platforms such as Bloglovin'.