Reviewing products is part of the publishing business that can be problematic. Our system, which requires a) editor who is super focused and b) reviewer who is product geek, has worked for a dozen years now. As the publisher, I try and watch the process from afar, but as we get into production, that is just not possible.
Cregg Weinmann is our footwear reviewer. He reviews footwear product for the Running Network and has done so for years now. Christine Johnson is the project editor and she has edited Cregg for six years now. Christine sees her job as translating Cregg's analysis to the point where the consumer gets the perfect amount of the geek and the non geek. Christine sometimes edits a footwear review ten to eleven times before she gets them to where she feels the piece is ready for the consumer. This process is painful, for both editor and reviewer.
The design is done by Kristen Cerrer, who has designed for us for about a decade as well. She takes the footwear pictures, reviews and all of the other nonsense we put into the inserts and makes it a whole section.
The production is where it gets dicey. This piece is pre printed for 31 different magazines, twice a year. The coordination of shipping the right amounts, shipping at the right time (so we do not have to overnight), making sure we are using the right ads is that of the production department.
Problems? Issues go out late or do not arrive and that slows down a magazine delivery. Issues get ruined in shipping and we need to reship. Someone does not understand how to assemble the insert and we get into trouble-advertisers do not like it when their ads do not run correctly.
The key, in my mind, is that the consumer sees the reviews not as the end point, but the starting point of their journey to find a good running shoe. If the consumer uses it as a start, and then goes to the local running store, we feel that we have accomplished something good. The key is providing a service for the reader.
The problem with reviews is to tell what is really going on. The cynical among us will say, that well, if you don't provide a good review, then footwear won't advertise. That is just not true. Our example is ASICS, who just did not advertise in our magazines for about six years. We reviewed their product because it is great product, and that had nothing to do with their advertising. Yes, they advertise now. But if you check any of our reviews and you will find new companies and some hard to find shoes that our reviewers have found to be important for you to see.
The key is credibility. Without credibility, one can not succeed in the publishing business.