A very worrying trend maybe I just stop everything

Today time for something that has bugging me for a while now.
But first let me clarify that I’m always fascinated by the whole social media thing, plus I’m also writing this piece from the standpoint of an ambassador for some brands and maybe a so called “influencer”. So my opinions might be a bit more biased than the casual viewer

When we get gear to test I sometimes almost have to fight for it, in the Netherlands it’s not as easy as in other countries to get gear for longer periods to do a proper review so when we are asked to look at gear I always start with a social media post announcing we have some new gear and immediately after that I start using it. This means that for example the review we recently did with the Microsoft Surfacebook 2 took me almost 2 months, but when I did my conclusion video I knew the ins and outs (well I guess 90%) of the laptop and could give an honest review. Same with a Synology NAS we are testing at the moment.

In my opinion, and correct me if I’m wrong, you guys are watching/reading my posts and spending hard earned money on the products based on reviews and opinions that I share, meaning I take that task incredibly serious. Also when someone asks something online being it via YouTube or other social media I always respond (even if sometimes it’s a question that was already answered), before you guys spend your money there will be questions, so yes I’ll answer those. One could say that as someone that posts reviews from time to time I take that task very seriously. Over the years I’ve build a steady growing group of followers and I feel personally responsible for every single one of them.

So why this article.
The last few “years” weeks I’ve seen a trend that worries me a lot, and might even ring in the end of influencers in my personal opinion. This is also why I actually hardly ever call myself an influencer, although according to some of you I am.

Let me start here.
I’m fully aware that  in some situations you get a device for a few hours and have to give it back. For me that would mean I would post some images and tell you guys “I’ve seen it, looks nice (or not) and can’t wait to do a review” at that moment in time I already secured my position of being one of the first with the device in hand (because nowadays that seems to be the most important thing in the world) and after that I’ll wait for a review sample to do a proper review (or not).

Still you see a gazillion videos hitting social media 20 minutes after a device is given back that already draw conclusions like the “influencer” has worked with the device for months. With all due respect guys but often I find little annoyances or bugs after literally days of intensive use, so how can I give a proper review after 1-2 hours hands on time in a semi guarded environment.

Recently we have seen this happen with my beloved P30 Pro.
don’t get me wrong I love my P30 pro a lot and would advice anyone looking for a camera that can make calls to run out to the store and get one (or the P20 pro) they are really awesome. Of course the moment it was announced you saw reviews most just rechewed specs and “opinions” on how it would perform, and even some already claiming it would be slightly better/worse… and that’s without ever holding a phone (if you read between the lines). When the phone was released to “influencers” of course I started to watch the videos (as a warm act before I got mine) and really couldn’t wait for it, this phone was amazing and great, and every single review was raving about the awesome awesome image quality, the camera is amazing.

In all honesty yep they were right the camera was amazing.
However not 10 minutes after I received my P30 pro I found a huge color profile bug on which I spend two articles, now normally you might think that a company like Huawei would not be happy with this…. well it was actually the opposite, of course they were not happy but I’ve been getting great feedback from them and the promise they are working on it. Now when I find a bug like this within 10 minutes after unboxing my phone and not even in review mode, how the heck can EVERY single reviewer including DxO labs have missed this? So I thought it was my phone, although that’s weird but ok, so I started asking around, at this moment in time 100% of the people that have responded found the same problem.

The issue?
Well all these people bought a phone with amazing amazing camera features, and are now p*ssed, however I think at the wrong party. Most people blame Huawei, and let me get one thing right YES Huawei is wrong, YES it’s a bug and YES they have to fix this as soon as possible, however why are people so upset? well simple, they bought the most awesome smartphone camera in the world, that got rave reviews and hit the top of all camera phones every released in DxO so you expect nothing less than excellence, and what do you get? a main sensor (the main camera) that has a wrong color profile….. is this bad?…… actually not at all, it’s an easy fix, I made my own custom profile in seconds and as long as I use a PC/Mac I can use the RAWs and I can tell you they are gorgeous, but I have that knowledge and I think (without calling myself better) that not a lot of people will have that ability, especially consumers or even photographers. You need some sort of profile creating device like an X-rite colorchecker SG or Passport and you have to actually connect the dots of where it was going wrong in the first place.

So YES Huawei made a mistake.
But it’s now being oversaturated in responses because the so called “influencers” didn’t mention it.
Would I have bought it when I knew about this issue?
Yes without a shadow of doubt, I don’t know a lot about programming a smartphones OS but for me it seems like an incredibly easy fix, just connect the proper profile to the main sensor and voila you’re done, and in fact internally it already works because the JPGs already look correct. Of course some people would have passed the P30 pro until this was fixed, but I think it would have actually sped the process up if it was mentioned on forehand.

Now continuing on this case.
Look at this article.

Now this is pretty awesome right?
A whole SF movie shot with a P30 Pro, wow……. however when you read this article you might not even want to buy the P30 Pro at all, and think it’s a terrible phone…. the article states VERY clearly that the P30 Pro doesn’t record 4K and even tells you that the VP of Huawei confirms this because they think 1080P is already great and takes up less space…… well excuse me, but the P30 Pro does do 4K and compared to the “not so good” performance of the P20 pro actually does a heck of a job with 4K. So what???

And to be honest I’ve been wanting to write an article like this for some time now but this article just was the drop.
Not only is the information false, but this could REALLY hurt a brand, now a lot of you guys will probably think “come on Frank, people can think for themselves and look at specs”… well do they? that’s the question, I do and maybe you too, but if it’s written like this including the VP of Huawei’s statement (which I think was never given that way) it at least will give the “idea” to a lot of people that 4K is not important for Huawei and that maybe it’s not real 4K, or maybe….. as you see many questions, and in a market that is saturated with smartphones it’s maybe just enough to persuade someone to go for another brand.

News articles
Of course we all have our streams, since I made the switch from Apple to Android I love to swipe all the way to the left during the day and read some articles, but in at least 50% of the cases I’m lured into “click bait”, and some even hurt. What about the headline “Freddie Mercury (of Queen), makes satanic statement just before dying” as a huge Queen fan (and not big on Satan to be honest (sorry)) this really shocked me, so I clicked…… now what happened you might wonder?

When they asked Freddie if he thought he would go to heaven he actually replied something in the trend of “I don’t know my dear, but I do think that hell would be more fun seeing who is already there”…… how the heck is this a satanic statement, knowing Freddie and 99% of the population of planet earth this is of course 100% meant as a joke and far from a satanic statement.

Especially with google news this happens a lot (don’t know for other sources by the way, I use this) and it almost makes me considering not using it anymore, but that would mean I also miss the right articles. One could say, the moment you click you are helping this problem, and indeed I agree on this, but let’s be honest when you see an article title like that you click, right?

Clickbait it’s all about clickbait
Now the term clickbait is well known of course, and in this case it is clearly clickbait, the moment you click the post you immediately know within seconds you have been lured into it. But it can also be a bit more hidden and dangerous and than we are back with the reviews.

We sometimes get gear send in for review from larger companies that the moment they see that we signed for the shipment give me a “wakeup” message in the trend of “hey Frank we saw you got the package, looking forward to your review” to be followed up not 2 days later with the message “Hey Frank did you already have time to post a video/review we are monitoring your stream and can’t wait”…. Yeah well… that’s obvious seeing the fact I just got it out of the box and installed the bloody thing. And trust me these are not devices you just connect and see a led blinking and know what it does.

So what do you see a lot?
Over the past few months I’ve seen more and more reviews including for one of my dear partners BenQ that review a monitor by posting just the specs and a similar text like “love this monitor/device and recommend it for the target audience”. With all due respect but when a company sends me gear this has value, and it might not have the retail value for the company sending it to me, but it does have value so when I take it out of the box I want to at least give them the respect to take a proper look at it, and in all honesty a monitor review can’t be done in 1 week. A monitor (believe it or not) is a very sensitive device and it’s the most important judging device we have for our work, it’s the final checkpoint before we send our photos/videos to our clients, so when doing a review I have to be able to tell the audience IF that monitor keeps it calibration for a week, is stable after a few weeks, doesn’t exhibit any discollarions after a few weeks of use, doesn’t lose any contrast ratio after a year etc…. now of course it would be ridiculous to keep a monitor for a year and than do a review, at that point there is a new version and…. well it doesn’t make any sense, but at least wait 2-3 weeks before making a final conclusion.

The problem
The main problem with all this is not that it’s a clickbait game, and I get that, trust me I also “struggle” with making my audience grow, and I know that by posting slightly different thumbnails and texts I can make posts explode I just choose not too. The problem we are creating at the moment is however that I’m afraid that within a few years the whole influencer market will literally implode and be reduced to “characters” which it already almost is to be honest. I’m an ambassador for some brands, but somehow I don’t wear a shirt with labels on it like a F1 driver, I use their gear, use the hashtags when I use the gear and I hope/know that you guys by seeing that I use that gear are motivated to also look into that gear or just reach out via social media to ask me how I like that gear. In the past few years for 3 major brands I’m an ambassador for I’ve seen a HUGE growth of ambassadors, and one might say “that’s cool”…. no it’s not.

An ambassador in my opinion is something completely different than a user.
An ambassador is someone that has value for his/her audience, that has a steady following and made a name for themselves that can be trusted. By making everyone that uses the gear an Ambassador it does seem like a brand has a HUGE amount of ambassadors but it also waters down the revenue for the company. Now this one might seem weird but let me explain.

There has been countless situations where I’ve asked for a certain piece of kit for a review (because one of you guys asked for it) but where I actually never was able to do the review because the piece of kit was not available for another 8-12 weeks because it was with someone else, and after that with…. and after that…… but he might be able to squeeze me in in 4 weeks if I can give it back within 2-3 days, yeah never mind I’m doing you a favour, not myself. And it can also backfire, I actually almost withdrew myself from a program because I got some backfire why I didn’t do a review on a new piece of kit…. my response was very simple and straightforward “it was released 3 months ago, get me the gear a week before release or right at the moment of release and I’ll do a review, but I will not do a review when the gear is already on the market for 3 months”

The thing is guys, and it’s very simple.
I have a family, I have hobbies, I have a dog and I have a son.
I love my work and always tell people I don’t work a day in my life, but in all honesty I work my *ss off. Creating content is not something you do in 10 minutes. You have to first test the gear, write down a review, get in front of a camera and make sure you have all the points for the video, now record the video, edit the video (find stuff that you put in there), in a worst case scenario redo some scenes or add parts, final edit the video, render the video and upload the video, but it doesn’t stop there, now the real work starts, promoting the video, sharing the video, hoping it gets picked up. And in all honesty…. when I do a review I’m already 1-2 weeks behind someone else that posts a video 30 minutes after they unbox the thing so getting on top in the almighty algorithme called “let’s promote clickbait” is next to impossible.

Over the years I’ve invested a lot of time in YouTube and our social media and we see a very steady growth, without buying any followers, without using any “viral” videos etc. My channel hardly has any tumb downs, I know when a certain person logs in because within 30 minutes I get a thumbs down on the last 4 videos I uploaded, well so be it, I hope you had fun. So with a like rate of almost 99% I think my channel is doing fine, I don’t need a million followers that have been lured in.

That being said.
In todays market it’s very much a numbers game, if you don’t have 1 million views on your video in a week…. well next time we will pick someone else even if that person creates content that is not only clickbait but even contains false information. This is why over the years I’ve been very grateful to companies like Elinchrom, Hensel, Lighttools, Ledgo, Lowepro, Nanlite, BenQ, Rogue/Epoimaging and X-rite that have been supporting our work from the start and don’t care about the numbers but they do care about the quality.

So….. to clarify the opening statement, will I stop doing what I do?
No way, of course not.
Of course I care about numbers, of course it sometimes frustrates me that when I post a video I don’t get 100.000 views in the first two days, but on the other hand, you can better get 300-1000 real views of people that are interested in your work and appreciate it than 100.000 views from people that “accidently” clicked on it and are disappointed by the content.

Did I now use a clickbait title?

But let’s hear your opinion.

  1. Did you base your spending on the advice of influencers?
  2. Do you still trust the reviews online?
  3. Do you think an influencer is just a character or should be someone you can trust?

Looking forward to your replies.