Wisdom of the Crowds: Amazon Reviewers Are As Reliable As Expert Reviewers

May 20th, 2012

Amazon reviews are just as likely to give an accurate summary of a book’s quality as those of professional newspapers, according to a study from Harvard Business School.

Professor Michael Luca and his co-authors analysed the top 100 non-fiction reviews from 40 media outlets, including the New York Times,the Guardian and the Washington Post, between 2004 and 2007 for their paper What Makes a Critic Tick? The academics used data from reviews aggregator metacritic.com, which summarises professional reviews and then awards ratings, if not given, based on content. They also looked at Amazon reviews for each title.

Although the study points out that there is “virtually no quality assurance” in Amazon’s consumer reviews, which can also be “gamed” by publishers or competitors submitting false reviews, they found that, nevertheless, experts and consumers agreed in aggregate about the quality of a book.

Interesting research.