Some notes on our story about Kwikchex's second ASA submission regarding TripAdvisor.
There's a sense, in our comment piece of this morning, of a new-school maverick being forced to pull its socks up and play by the old rules. I'm a little uncomfortable with that, as the old ways aren't perfect. The fact is they demonstrably don't prevent amateurism, error or falsehood, and the models they were designed for and uphold denied the average consumer a voice for most of publishing history - hence the popularity of TripAdvisor in the first place.
I suspect that TripAdvisor will at worst get an affordable fine and have to make a few changes around reputation management for listed businesses, which it is in the process of doing anyway (whether those moves have been triggered by the ASA submissions is a matter for speculation). Far from seriously damaging or destroying TripAdvisor, these cases seem likely to refine it.
In truth refinement is the giant's problem - what the 'new vs traditional' reading misses is that the core TripAdvisor product itself is now rather traditional. It represents a first, heavily consumer-focused wave of UCG reviews, and a cursory glance at the online travel news pages shows that a clutch of new businesses have spotted and are attempting to address its main percieved weakness: roughly, having taken us from a position of imbalance to a position of equal and opposite imbalance, where a formerly disempowered public become disproportionately powerful.
So I don't see all this as a question of whether what TripAdvisor seeks to do is right - what it seeks to do is give consumers a voice, and that is unarguably right. For me the key question is how well TripAdvisor does it, and that's about being more of an online business, not less. Does it have the best content filters? Is it the best at flagging up when a review has been challenged, or is particularly old? Is it the best at verification? Is it the best at eliciting and displaying responses from the businesses concerned?
[On the subject of the last question, I remember reading research that indicated consumers respond positively to negative reviews with honest, professional replies posted alongside - take that with a pinch of salt until I can find and verify, but I can say anecdotally that it chimes with how I respond.]
Far from uncovering a flaw in the online world, this story uncovers potential flaws in TripAdvisor that the online world is rather cleverly and industriously addressing.