Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reviews with a LouderVoice

Writing to you live from my reviews and reputation management rabbit hole... I had an interesting exchange with Conor O’Neill today. Conor is the Co-Director of Argolon Solutions' new venture, LouderVoice.

The Irish based company launched in May 2007 with a platform that allows its members to write reviews on their own blogs, so that they can be aggregated and distributed to partners. A secondary part of the business allows blogless reviewers to set up a LouderVoice reviews blog on their network with the option to transfer to alternative servers as desired.

The driving factor behind the platform is to build a trusted community and Conor feels that reviews that are tied back to personal blogs providing deeper background on the person behind the words, is much more transparent.

With its growing collection of detailed, user generated content, LouderVoice is offering a platform for rants, raves and indifferent expressions from consumers. As a result f the content-rich collection, Conor pointed out that more and more of their users' reviews are topping Google in SEO. By building out identities specific to reviewing products and services, the play stays true to its content. As an added feature, the site allows reviewers to push content on the go via SMS.

To date, Conor describes the content as seasonally driven. With a lot of music and movie reviews reflecting the winter habits of hibernating consumers. Restaurant and hotel reviews tend to pop up in the summer. "The main thing we see is long tail content with plenty of completely unique reviews that are not seen anywhere else and a lot of local content" added Conor.

Developed through Microformats, the LouderVoice functionality is a simple add-on to an existing blog.

An API is currently under development to allow LouderVoice partners to provide review writing/reading features on their sites. Their customers send reviews remotely and can view all relevant review summaries/ratings on the partner site. The first partner (to be named) integration will launch in March.

LouderVoice is currently adding features like a very lightweight tagging system for review collection and the addition of video sites, podcasting sites and social networks as new source streams. The goal is to house all reviews written by an individual, no matter where they are generated, so that they can be found via one site, building the individual's reputation.

LouderVoice V2 is planned to launch in February with added Web 2.0 features allowing users to follow their favourite reviewers and an internal reviewing function for those who aren't bloggers. The site will also be re-designed with a sleeker look and feel and more robust navigation.

What I find refreshing about the model is that as opposed to offering cash for specific product reviews like ReviewStream or ReviewsArena (among a growing list of others), the site is offering a reputation building vehicle, blogging tools and blog traffic as an incentive. This allows them to avoid the sketchy “this review is a paid advertisement” disclaimer other review writing networks are tied to on all of their aggregated content.

Conor described three revenue streams for the business. The first is standard contextual advertising on the site which is well suited to review-style content. The second is a partner/white-label model and the third is a partner customer feedback system (more centered on the SMS interface).

Varying approaches to combat trusted reviews are cropping up everywhere. As privacy concerns are surfacing about portable reputation engines, LouderVoice’s model provides a timely and unique alternative. With LouderVoice’s potential for rich content and its focused review writing environment, it looks like they have the right ingredients in place. As usual, it's a numbers game, driving consistent content will be a challenge. Conor appears to be up for it.

The product is currently being rolled out in Ireland and UK with marketing plans to follow for Europe and North America.


Conor O'Neill said...

Thanks for the great piece on LouderVoice Sonia. Whilst our marketing efforts are focused on this side of the pond, we welcome reviewers from everywhere to try out the site.

Sonia Carreno said...

Thanks for the feedback Conor and the chat today. It will be interesting to watch things unfold for LouderVoice on a global level.