About a year ago, I signed up to receive an email newsletter from TabletHotels.com. TabletHotels is a site offering reviews of, and reservations for, unusual boutique hotels worldwide, describing itself as a resource for "global nomads."
Since I am highly protective of my inbox, and am decidedly not a global nomad, it's reasonable to ask what attracts me to this website and its newsletter. Let's start with the graphic design, among the most attractive and inviting I have seen. The user interface is equally good. The hotels are individually selected, putting TabletHotels into a distinctly different class from the myriad hotel booking sites that want you to do all the legwork and decision-making yourself. The information on each hotel is rich, deep and clearly not cookie cutter or recycled hotel brochure copy. There is an elegant and powerful booking engine, and lots of special discounts to further entice a user to make a booking.
What caught my eye this morning was an announcement by TabletHotels that it is adding user reviews to its site. That, by itself would be a giant yawn as almost every hotel booking site has already added user reviews. What really intrigued me was that TabletHotels would only publish reviews from registered users where it could confirm that the user had actually stayed at the hotel. That's no small benefit in a world where well- known sites such as TripAdvisor.com are being faulted for having so many reviews it is becoming hard to draw any conclusions from them. It's also important in a world where reviews have become so important to hotels that some of them are posting anonymous favorable reviews of themselves to "fight back" against unfavorable reviews.
There is a lot to commend the notion of verified reviews. They reduce the overall number of reviews, reducing clutter and noise and making those reviews that do appear more valuable. Clearly, they also make the reviews more trustworthy, and again, more valuable. They also burnish the image of the site overall as one committed to providing only trusted, quality information.
Are verified reviews more work? Absolutely. But to my mind, extra effort is what distinguishes those who will be the long term winners in the information business. Too many Web 2.0 start-ups seem to think more is better, and dismiss the very concepts of editing, filtering or verifying. But these have provided the long-standing essence of publishing, and they aren't called "value-add" for nothing.