Our opinion on opinions

There are lots of services built on the concept of accumulating opinions and reviews, globally as well as locally in our region. Many of them do really well, generate massive traffic and cover a vast number of individual products with great accuracy. In short, they do a great job and provide a really valuable service.

What most of these services have in common is a primary focus on tangible products, be they LCD-TV's, dishwashers, DSLR's or fully automatic espresso machines. Products that cost a significant amount of money. Stuff you'll keep for a while, perhaps years. You'd hate to make the wrong choice.

Thus you spend lots of time doing research. You prefer to get as close to the objective truth as possible. With a bewildering array of sources, you thank your lucky stars for trusted review sites, whether they accumulate professional reviews, user reviews or both. Once you've made your decision and your purchase, you move on. When your next paycheck arrives, you'll be back, researching something else. No need to ponder the demonstrated need for these services! So where's Popyoular in this picture?

First of all, we deal with stuff that costs relatively little. Music, films, books... Increasingly, it costs nothing at all. "Consuming" another album in a streaming music service isn't going to cost you anything. Buying one is only going to set you back the cost of two or three lattes. A pocket book is even less. No big deal. Your focus isn't on avoiding bad purchases from a monetary perspective, it's on the experience itself. Will I like this? Would I be wasting my time? Is there something I'm not aware of that I'm missing?

Secondly, to the vast majority of the folks Popyoular aims to address, their interest in our subject matter is deeply rooted. It's permanent, and to some even something they see as an expression of who they are. Their interest in music isn't something that pops up only when they decide to actually buy an album. They'll get excited about a great movie in a lunchtime discussion any day of the week.

Thirdly, there is no objective truth, only subjective opinions that can be expressed in ways that can be more or less useful to the reader. And importantly, "useful" can also mean entertaining, thoughtful, provocative or any number of other adjectives.

For someone who has a permanent interest in the subject matter, reviews and opinions are valuable in and of themselves. Now, there are certainly cases where this is true for physical product reviews as well. Ask anyone who's read Jeremy Clarkson's car tests. It's just a lot less common.

That in turn leads to our fourth point: Trust is bestowed upon sources and reviewers of pop culture (or not so pop culture) in very different ways than what is the case for objective product reviews. It could be about certain reviewers and their status as taste leaders, it could be about a publication that consistently offers a certain angle you like or dislike, and obviously, it could be about user reviews where any number of parameters can decide whether you trust that person to guide you or not.

It could also, as above, be the perceived qualities of the review itself. We firmly believe that these differences are real. We also firmly believe that they have some important implications.

One is focus. We think we can do a better job building a service for folks interested in the kind of content we address if that's all we do.

Another is identity and trustworthiness. If Popyoular isn't associated with fridges or GPS's, our view is that it will be easier to build a platform for the exchange of opinions about our particular kind of subject matter: Stuff that's cheap, even free. But still life changingely important :)