iLounge announces accessory coverage, policy changes | iLounge Article

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iLounge announces accessory coverage, policy changes

Last week, Apple executives announced that the number of iPod accessories now stands at “over 2,000,” up from “over 1,000” in September: that’s double the options in only four months’ time. Is this good news for iPod owners? Not entirely. Increased competition is great, but as everyone knows, quantity does not equal quality. There’s a lot of junk out there now - more than ever before.

From what you’ve been telling us, fatigue is setting in. People are tired of wading through hundreds of products to find the few that are worthwhile. They’re also put off by companies that are using underhanded tactics to promote their offerings. So today, iLounge is announcing several important changes to our coverage of the iPod accessory marketplace, and filling our readers in on some dirty stuff that’s been happening behind the scenes. You can sum up our plans this way: “If it’s not on iLounge, there’s a reason.”

Who We Are, And Why

If you haven’t seen our About Us page, here’s the short version of the iLounge story. The site is owned by Dennis Lloyd, who was one of the first people to buy an iPod in 2001, and created the ‘Lounge way before there was an “iPod economy.” He loves iPods, music, and the entire iLounge community. The rest of the staff here feels the same. We all joined Dennis because we wanted to help a growing family of iPod lovers get honest, independent information about the world’s best music players. That is still our number one goal today.
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A lot has changed over the past four years. We have continued to cover “all things iPod” while the word “iPod” has evolved to include recording, text and photo display, and now video playback. We have reviewed iPod and iTunes products from more than 200 different companies, and referenced countless numbers more, developing a reputation for comprehensiveness and objective criticism. Consequently, iLounge is now visited by approximately four million people per month, making this the leading destination for iPod-related discussion and information online.

Some things have stayed the same. We remain 100% editorially independent from Apple and third-party developers. iLounge is our only business, and we have no interest in selling you any iPod services or accessories. Like other publications, we accept advertisements from numerous companies, avoiding editorial interference both through this diversification and internal separation of our business and editorial sides. But you probably didn’t know that we have actively turned down proposals to change this. Many companies have asked us to actually market and sell their iPod offerings. We are also routinely offered the opportunity to consult, for fees, on iPod accessories still under development. Though these opportunities would financially benefit us, we’ve said no, because we do not believe that they are ultimately in our readers’ best interests.

Our commitment to our readers has become even deeper over time. We, like you, are consumers of iPod products, and don’t like to see companies using shady tactics to gain business. If we’re uncomfortable with a company or concerned about the products or services they’re marketing, we limit or stop coverage of their products under a policy we announced early last year. Additionally, we turn down their advertising. Again, it would be easier and financially beneficial if we looked the other way, but we want to do right by our readers. Even though the ads appear elsewhere instead, we sleep better at night knowing that we haven’t assisted them.

In the absence of positive editorial or advertising options on iLounge, certain companies have tried to use sleazy tactics such as viral marketing to reach you on the site. We actively hate a form of viral marketing called astroturfing* - when company representatives pose anonymously as unbiased readers to promote their products or smear competitors in discussion forums. Most companies do not stoop to this level, because we have provided a respectable alternative: company representatives can identify themselves and speak honestly to our readers. But some desperate people are trying to create positive (or negative) buzz any way they can. As a consequence, we have already had to ban a handful of companies for using viral marketing tactics, and we’ve been upgrading the site to make it easier to find and eliminate other viral marketers. While we finish our work on this, please take extremely positive or negative user-submitted comments and discussion forum posts with a grain of salt. They frequently come from people with agendas.

What Else is Changing?

For the first time in iPod accessory history, quantity is beginning to prevail over quality. In recent reports from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and several cities in Asia, we have noted that the iPod accessories market is rapidly becoming saturated with me-too products - everything from hundreds of lookalike cases and $2 cables to outright clones of existing accessories. We have mixed feelings about these developments. Price and feature competition between quality products is a good thing. But design theft and an increased number of flimsy, “you get what you pay for” options are both bad things. As developers have recently put it, the market is becoming one where “buyers beware,” and as buyers, we don’t like that one bit.

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iLounge’s editors have spent the last few months discussing ways that we can help our readers continue to get important product information without digging through piles of garbage. Now we’ve made the following decisions about our future coverage of two types of accessories - iPod covers (cases/armbands/stickers), and everything else.

Changes to coverage of iPod cases, armbands, and stickers

iPod cases have evolved a lot over the last four years, from functional but boring little pouches to everything from designer label fashions to virtually unbreakable hard shells. Yet while features and pricing are important, the number one thing that makes someone want or not want most iPod cases is appearance. The same is true with stickers, less so with armbands. Regardless, appearance is an entirely personal, subjective decision.

So our case reviews are shifting to a picture-heavy, text-light format, and we are doing away with rating these products (generally) on appearance. Instead, we will be rating them on five objective factors - Build Quality, Ease of Use, Special Features, Protectiveness, and Value - criteria that we started to test in capsule case reviews a few months ago, now enhanced with easy and clearly defined 10-point ratings for each factor. This will lead to even more coverage of available iPod covers, without the need for unnecessary text. If you like the way a case, sticker, or armband looks in pictures, now you’ll easily be able to see how it stacks up to similar options on features. We will also be introducing a new photo-heavy search engine that will help you quickly find options that match your exact wants and needs.

Changes to coverage of other iPod accessories

If you didn’t know that we’ve tested and reviewed more iPod accessories than anyone else in the world, that’s probably because we don’t brag about it. But it’s true. We now have a storage facility filled with classic accessories, packaging, and manuals, and new boxes arrive four to six days a week, every week. As a matter of policy, we do not sell any of the accessories we buy or receive, and instead keep them around for comparative testing and reference, facts which have made the collection grow to mammoth proportions. That said, none of this means that you really want to hear about all of this stuff - trust us, you don’t.
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Based on reader comments and our desire to make your accessory hunting easier, we’ve decided to become more selective about what we actively cover. This doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop covering small companies, or focus even most of our attention on big ones. We’ll continue to report any important announcement we hear, and bring you the same First Looks and comprehensive Reviews you’ve come to expect. But we are going to start championing products that represent breakthroughs or significant improvements on price, features, quality, and/or design, and pay much less attention to me-too products.

This also doesn’t mean that we’re dropping the insight or criticism you’ve told us you appreciate. We will continue to review widely available products from major vendors regardless of whether they’re good or not, because readers want to know the truth about what’s out there. In the rare case that we haven’t covered an important product ourselves, you can assume that there’s a good reason. Check our Accessory Discussion Forums to see what iLounge readers are saying, or send an e-mail to Ask iLounge. We’ll let you know if a vendor is trying to avoid negative reviews, or whatever else might be happening.

Our Goals

From what we’ve seen, the next stage of the iPod’s growth will be marked by a dramatic increase in the amount of junk that’s marketed to iPod owners, and felt that we had two choices: the easy and lucrative “say nothing” route, or the harder “take a stand” route. We’re taking a stand, but also trying to strike the right balance to make sure that good companies and products get the spotlight they deserve. The flip side of the “if it’s not on iLounge, there’s a reason” concept is that we’ll do our best to make sure that any worthwhile iPod product or service is covered in some way on the site. We want to see good companies and good products connect with good people.

As we continue to grow throughout 2006, we will be guided by a single agenda - to do what’s best by you, our readers. We hope that this editorial has answered any questions you might have, and continue to appreciate your comments and suggestions, both below and in e-mails to jeremy (at) ilounge.com (editorial inquiries only) and dennisl (at) ilounge.com (business/advertising inquiries only). Thanks for reading.

* Added “astroturfing” for clarification.

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Comments

1

“we’ll do our best to make sure that any worthwhile iPod product or service is covered in some way on the site”

Thanks. This is more than I would expect given the volumes you write about. May I request that if something is really harmful, that you cover it in some way? How about a small table each month with the name of the company, name of product, product category and some words of caution. I avoided buying a specific booster battery based on your warnings and would appreciate an early heads up on anything that might kill my pod.

Posted by Aceon6 in New England, USA on January 23, 2006 at 1:22 PM (CST)

2

One of the reasons I look to iLounge before anywhere else for reviews, info or anything else iPod related is because of the quality and professionalism of the people who run this site. I look forward to the continuance of your fine reviews and thank you for all your efforts in making this site the best! It’s the one iPod website I visit more than onece a day every day.

Posted by Tenchi211 in California on January 23, 2006 at 2:43 PM (CST)

3

Great article.

On a related note, are you guys going to offer anything akin to (I can’t think of an ample comparison here) PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice? Something given to an especially distinguished or innovative product, as you were talking about in the article. When I wanted to buy earbuds, for example, I went to iLounge and looked through the reviews list in that category, but I had to wade through all the bad products to find a good one. If there were a couple of “Editor’s Choices” at the top of the list my search could have been a lot easier.

Posted by JoshSpazJosh on January 23, 2006 at 3:23 PM (CST)

4

Well done with the policy, but I think you’re confusing viral marketing with astroturfing.  Viral marketing is taking advantage of word-of-mouth to market your product and is a legitimate tactic.  Astroturfing is attempting to create the impression of grass-roots support by getting employees or other shils to pretend to be enthusiastic customers (astroturf, fake grass). 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viral_marketing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing

Posted by phennphawcks on January 23, 2006 at 3:39 PM (CST)

5

Nicely done.

Posted by runningman on January 23, 2006 at 4:14 PM (CST)

6

Great statement.
Appreciate your taking the high road.

Posted by Bayport Bob on January 23, 2006 at 4:36 PM (CST)

7

Thank you iLounge for all your hard and dedicated work you have given to your loyal readers.  I think the new policy is great but I hope you put into consideration that not everyone have the pocket money to buy THE best accessory.

Posted by sno_cat219 on January 23, 2006 at 6:43 PM (CST)

8

As we all know, no empire lasts forever. Not that Apple and/or iPod are empires by any stretch of the imagination, but when the iPod stops being the “best” music player (which I am not certain it is), will you guys include other players that take that role?

I think one of the ways to weed out the accessory schemsters, is to confuse them by

Posted by nyalien in New York on January 23, 2006 at 7:22 PM (CST)

9

I hope you do due diligence before simply deleting legitimate users’ comments about products you deem unworthy.

This seems like a *very* slippery slope to me, but hey, it’s your site, so you can do whatever you want.

I still use iLounge for accessory reviews, but in future I will always wonder if you’ve deleted some legitimate complaints about a “good” product, or if you’re working against some upstart manufacturer wanting to break into the market with an innovative product.

Posted by kokketiel on January 23, 2006 at 8:14 PM (CST)

10

Thanks to all for your comments so far. You can be confident that we will continue to keep you up to date on our testing experiences, positive and negative, and that we have very significant additional plans to address the issues that have been raised above.

JoshSpazJosh: We do have further plans on this, but for now, use the Review Ratings link from Accessories above to easily find our Highly Recommended products in various categories.

phennphawcks: Viral marketing can take different forms, some positive and some negative. We’d never heard the term astroturfing before, but that’s one of our concerns, and we’re also referring to everything to the right of viral marketing’s blurry center line. We’ve seen everything from what you’d deem astroturfing to things that (sort of) fall short, such as giving products away to people and then telling them to post positive comments. Our major concern is the integrity of the opinions.

kokketiel: Chill. We rarely delete comments - the official statistic, which I just checked to provide some quantification, is that we have had to remove fewer than .5% (not five percent) of the tens of thousands of comments posted to iLounge, and the vast majority of those have been for advertising (casino bots, etc), racist or obscene content, and nothing else. We have never and would never “work[] against some upstart manufacturer… with an innovative product;” we specified innovation as a key criterion for product coverage going forward. And we don’t delete legitimate complaints about products.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on January 24, 2006 at 12:21 AM (CST)

11

Wow I just received an ipod and found this site and I want to thank you for your True Mission Statement! Keep up the great work.

Matt Fabrizio

Posted by Mattfab25 on January 24, 2006 at 6:52 AM (CST)

12

One idea I would love to see is thumbnail images for the list of reviews, especially for the cases. Maybe a seperate visual guide that belongs as a seperate page if the server load is too much. I’ve been in the market for a 5G case for some time, but going through every single title and going back to the giant list is a HUGE PAIN! I would love to just make a visual scan of all of the cases and weed out the 80% of goofy (but cute) stuff. The market is so crowded that the names no longer mean anything, it’s just too overwhelming to use. I’ve used Apple’s site for browsing cases just because there’s visuals to help me focus on what I’m looking for, despite the limited availability.

As far as the Ilounge ethics: way to go! Finding unbiased reviews is very difficult now a days, and you guys are setting the standard. I hope this remains profitable venture for you guys and DON’T SELL OUT, no matter how large the paycheck! No venture capital firm is going to keep the line of ethics that you guys hold. Thanks a million and keep up the good work.

Posted by antirich on January 24, 2006 at 12:18 PM (CST)

13

If we’re uncomfortable with a company or concerned about the products or services they’re marketing, we limit or stop coverage of their products under a policy we announced early last year.

This tuna net catches many dolphins.  As a previously banned member, I know this from experience.  I work for a case manufacturer, do a job that has nothing to do with the products we sell at ALL, and have gotten my entire company banned because I also happen to love their products, and said so. 

I also gave TONS of unusually helpful information whenever I was asked, including a descriptive picture for any inquisitive member that directly answered their questions. 

Any forum would be lucky to have such a member, not to mention everyone seemed to appreciate what I was doing.  Some of them bought cases and they will freakin’ LOVE them.  I feel GREAT about that.

But now I’m in trouble at work.  I’ve sent a very long and heart-felt apology to Dennis to which I’ve gotten no response, and I’m feeling like maybe there should be at least two strikes before you’re thrown completely out of the stadium.

I’m not angry.  I’ve more or less put myself in this position.  I WOULD like a reply to my email, though, to at least know that he read it, and if I could suggest an amendment to the policy, I would add-on a clause that says,

As strict as our policy may seem, we understand that sometimes there are young men out there, who are basically innocent, but yet make booboos and get their entire company in trouble.  We try to be as forgiving with these people as we would want them to be with us if we spoke in favor of our wonderful iLounge.com on some other site.  It is, after all, very awesome and worth speaking well of, as are other products by other companies, and we understand that.  We also do not claim to be infallible.  If we make booboos hastily judging others, we do our best to accept their apologies.

Or something like that.

Posted by AaronDSmiley on January 24, 2006 at 6:17 PM (CST)

14

was this move perhaps related to a certain news post about a certain rhinoskin? I noticed that the thread and comments from a supposedly unassociated consumer disappeared completely off ilounge.

Posted by blahhh on January 24, 2006 at 6:23 PM (CST)

15

AaronDSmiley said (in “long and heart-felt apology” ):
I can promise to not use your site anymore, and I can very easily apologize for my actions. I was wrong.

What happened to your promise?

You were revealed as an employee of a case manufacturer (Rhinoskin) and you attempted to plant false reviews, using ‘sock puppets,’ for your company’s products in the news/reviews comments, and you then registered in the forums to do the same. At no point did you identify yourself as an employee - in fact, you pretended to be an unbiased reader, and referred to your company as if you didn’t work for them. You were caught laying “astroturf” and your accounts were closed for this action. Unfortunately, you’re not the first person to do this, and our decision to offer second chances depends on the severity of the dishonesty involved.

You offered promo codes for these products even though your employer knew nothing about them? - “...like give them discounts, etc. All of this is stuff I really shouldn’t have been doing without my employer knowing and okaying it.” Your postings were even done while you were using your company’s Internet accounts.

Any trouble you are in is purely of your own doing. Coming back to try and ask us to rewrite a policy which has been in place for a year and which is highlighted all over the site is a bit rich.
(For example - Commercial Members and Advertising Policy - “6) Any commercial forum member caught posting about their products under the guise/profile of a non-commercial member risks consequences up to and including permanent forum banishment…” And the text above every page’s comments section about advertising. And so on.)

Just in case you failed to fully read the policy mentioned in the quote you opened your “appeal” with, it can be found here...

In our experience, tuna nets mainly catch tuna… of course, nothing likes to get caught.

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on January 24, 2006 at 7:03 PM (CST)

16

I’ve often questioned the fact that iLounge never really took advantage of their store space by expanding the products offered to the ever growing member base.  This artice answers my question quite well.  You chose not to let a business plan create a conflict with your mission statement.

Thank you for doing so.

Posted by jwc110869 in Rochester, NY on January 24, 2006 at 8:46 PM (CST)

17

jwc: Just for reference, iLounge only sells T-shirts through the LoungeStore - everything else is sold by other vendors. And yes, this is by design. Given the fact that so many publications are now offering stores of some sort, we have discussed internally whether we’d want to expand this further to provide some editorially neutral online ordering alternative, but haven’t found the formula that makes both the business side (Dennis) and editorial side (me) comfortable.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on January 24, 2006 at 11:17 PM (CST)

18

hmmm… Glad to see a great thing get even better.

You guys do a great job and didn’t really think you can do it any better but you’ve found a way.

Thanks

Posted by 3rdEye on January 25, 2006 at 1:44 PM (CST)

19

Well said Mr. Levens. Thanks to all the iLounge staff for all your hard work and dedication to the community! It’s nice to see we have some honest people on the net.. A+ rating from this iPod’er!!

Posted by BlueHUE in Nebraska on January 25, 2006 at 4:55 PM (CST)

20

I really appreciate the content on this site & want to thank you for staying true to your readers. With the help of your excellent in-depth accessorie reviews I have been able to make good choices in purchasing accessories, which has enhanced my overall experience and enjoyment of my iPod—and subsequently lead to more iPod and more accessorie purchases! I believe your policies & committment to ethical business practices are admirable and, in addition to being of GREAT service to all your readers, will also be the key to the longevity of iLounge. Thanks for everything!

Posted by ccina on January 25, 2006 at 6:25 PM (CST)

21

Amen On The Mission Statement!!! I have also used reviews posted at ilounge to buy iPod acessories. You have not given me a “bum steer” yet. Keep up the good work!!!

Posted by ricks0me on January 26, 2006 at 6:32 AM (CST)

22

Sounds good guys!

Posted by Glenn Wolsey on January 26, 2006 at 2:11 PM (CST)

23

I have always admired the ipod for the longest time but could never really afford one due to budget constraints. Since my new job last year, I am now a proud owner of my very first ipod video. Its an astounding piece of technological artwork. After discovering ilounge, I am xtrememly delighted at the range of topics and subjects for my trusty pod. The objectivity and honesty of your views for this product, among others, is short of amazing. I am very happy to have stumbled upon your site. Just want to say a Big Thank You for all your hard work and dediction. I am proud to be a part of this ipod community.

Posted by Kastor Troy on January 29, 2006 at 1:13 PM (CST)

24

I love you guys!!!

Posted by Lordsbassman in Corn Fields of Illinois on January 31, 2006 at 12:46 AM (CST)

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