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Gorkana meets...TrustedReviews

15 May 2015

TrustedReviews editor Evan Kypreos, deputy and homes editor Andy Vandervell and gaming editor Samantha Loveridge, on PRs being their life and soul, traffic spikes and why there is no typical reader.

TrustedReviews is a comprehensive source of independent expert reviews, user reviews and news about consumer electronics products. Launched nearly 12 years ago, the site was acquired by IPC Media (now Time Inc UK) in 2007.

The site publishes more than 1,000 expert product reviews each year across 19 sectors including TV and entertainment, cameras, laptops and computing, mobile and GPS, home appliances and gaming.

It reaches around 10 million unique users every month (between 25 and 30 million page views), with more than 180 million pages of content read every year by a global audience, making TrustedReviews the biggest Time Inc UK site.

The independent UK Hitwise Report ranks TrustedReviews within the top three largest websites for electronics and IT media.

The team

Evan oversees all content for TrustedReviews. As well as being deputy editor, Andy also looks after homes content. Sam heads up gaming content and Ed Chester oversees computing content. Features editor Michael Sawh looks after content that isn’t reviews related, and news editor Luke Johnson heads up the news section of the site. The team is also made up of several staff writers as well as a pool of freelancers.

When TrustedReviews was smaller, the day would begin with a quick stand up meeting where the whole team would discuss the editorial agenda. As the title (and team) has grown, this has turned into a weekly Monday morning meeting, which includes external freelancers, where content for that week is discussed. There is also a monthly meeting to work on longer lead content.

The team has also hired a marketing manager, whose principal role is to develop the site's social presence. The site is made for people looking for advice, which means having a strong level of engagement with readers is a big focus. After reading a review, they may leave a comment or may wish to ask a direct question via social channels. The team will always respond to comments and questions. It can also be a great source for content when readers come up with questions about a product the team had not considered.

Typical reader

TrustedReviews has one of the largest ABC1 audiences of the Time Inc UK portfolio. Readers have money to spend, are often looking for long-term purchases, particularly home appliances, and will do a lot of research before committing to buy. That said, when it comes to content around gaming or wearable technology, readers tend to be a younger tech savvy audience – people who want to show off the latest gadgets.

The team launched its Home Appliance section last year, which has led to a shift from a largely male audience to almost 50% of readers being women. Evan believes this is also because tech has become more interesting to women as well as men.

Andy doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a typical reader when it comes to TrustedReviews, due to the broad spread of content featured on the site. Reviews about a £2000 laptop and a £500 washing machine are not going to attract the same audience.

However, there is a core readership, who have followed the site since it launched, and are always keen to hear about the latest products.

35% of the site's readers are based in the UK, with the US and Canada also making up 35% of its audience.

Content

The site’s Mobile section, which includes phones, tablets and wearables, tends to draw the most traffic. TV and Audio is very popular, as is Gaming, while Home Appliances is continuing to grow.

Before joining TrustedReviews two years ago, Andy did a stint at Which? magazine. At the time there was no free alternative to Which? and he was keen to explore the opportunities around home appliances, especially large domestic appliances, when he joined TrustedReviews. Since launching the new section, it has proven very popular, with more than 350,000 page views a month.

The rise in interest in home appliances is partly due to the growing economy, says Andy. As more people buy houses there has been an increased interest in appliances and smart tech. Many new home owners are starting to think how they can improve their homes and consumption through smart technology.

Reviews make up 50% of the site's content. Other content includes news, features, buying guides and tips and tricks.

The team regularly covers kickstarter projects. Evan is a start-up mentor and there is also a freelancer on the team who does a weekly column on the top five kickstarter projects to look out for. Along with this, there is usually at least one kickstarter news story a day.

Video content

Video is a growing area for TrustedReviews, with Evan recently recruiting a full time video producer. He is keen to increase the amount of video content on the site, as well as the variety and quality on offer.

There has also been an increase in the site's YouTube following. Evan says it’s important to get video content out as soon as possible. If the team attends events, they will try to create a lot of video content and get it out fast.

Traffic spikes

Traffic starts to pick up from the start of the morning, peaking between 12 and 1pm. There is another spike in traffic between 8pm and 9pm when US traffic starts to hit. Weekends see a big spike in mobile use, usually when people are checking prices on their phones while out shopping.

Time Inc UK recently did a study, called Time for Tech, on purchasing habits and consumers' relationship with tech. Data shows that the purchase journey is akin to a pinball machine, rather than being a linear process. Consumers often go online to view a particular product, then visit a store to see what it looks and feels like, before returning online to make the final purchase. Anyone interested in seeing copy of Time for Tech can email Evan.

Working with PRs

“PRs are our life and soul,” says Sam. “We don’t exist without them and vice versa I guess.”

The team is always keen to meet with brands and build strong relationships. There are several brands they talk to on a regular basis, so a strong relationship is essential. “Even if it’s an informal drink or breakfast, you can get so much more done and work out the priorities of people better than having it jammed into an email or phone call,” says Andy.

How best to contact when pitching depends on the relationship a PR has with a member of the team. Evan and Sam always prefer to be pitched to via email initially. Sam finds phone calls can be intrusive, especially if an email is directly followed up with a call from a PR. She also tends to pay more attention to an email from someone she’s dealt with previously.

If Andy knows someone very well, he is happy to be called. When it comes to email, he generally doesn’t read the attachment, so will need to see something interesting in the body of the text to peak his interest. “Don’t make me hunt for the story.” He is far more likely to engage if you send two or three bullet points in the email highlighting what the story is about.

PRs should include all materials in a pitch email, eg high res imagery and lifestyle shots. Being sent landscape pictures, rather than portrait is also very important.

It’s essential for PRs to know the site well and be aware of what it doesn’t cover before pitching. If a PR is pitching something they haven’t seen on the site before, they should have the argument ready for where they could see it fitting on the site, says Evan.

Reviews content is published seven days after it is received. Lead times on feature content varies. The team is already planning Christmas content, and also has dates in the calendar for upcoming events, including London Technology Week.

The site will not use external expert comments, unless it’s an issue/area TrustedReviews has none of its own experts on hand to comment on.

The team is very wary of survey-based stories. Andy finds the surveys he’s received often lack transparency when it comes to the methodology. It’s important to remember that internet readers are generally very savvy, he says, and are quick to point out to the team when they see a story that doesn’t quite add up.

Andy says that if a PR is not sure who is the right person to talk to about a particular product, it’s better to be upfront and just ask.

Exclusivity

The reviews market is a particularly competitive one, with several outlets battling it out to get their hands on a new product first, says Andy. He knows it is not always possible to be given exclusive access and is happy to get a product at the same time as his competitors. However, if the team can get access to a new product a week before everyone else, it means they can create a lot more interesting content, including features, news pieces and video.

The team will always respect embargoes, although it can be frustrating when they are broken elsewhere. When this does happen, Evan would like to get some feedback from PRs on why this happened and hopefully a thumbs up to publish the embargoed content.

Partnerships

The team has reams of data that show the correlation between a review being read on the site and how many readers then click to buy. The site currently has several affiliate partners, including ebay, and Evan is keen to develop this further. If the site has reviewed something and it’s a good product, he sees no reason why the team wouldn’t direct readers to the cheapest place for purchase.

On a global level TrustedReviews also has exclusive partnerships with several US-based companies to monetize US traffic via affiliate revenue.

Events

The team attends all the tech big events, including CES, Mobile Congress, IFA, and E3. Andy says there are three key things he’s after when he attends events: provide early access to new products; make sure someone with a direct connection to the product is available to interview; and be on hand to provide more details when required.

Sam goes to as many events as possible. When it comes to gaming events, she will want to know: can she get hands on with a game she hasn’t seen before; can she get an interview with someone related to the game; and does she have the opportunity to catch up with the PRs at the event to find out what else might be in the pipeline.

TrustedReviews Awards

The TrustedReviews Awards have been around for the past five years, but last year was the first time a physical awards ceremony took place. Evan made sure it had a relaxed feel. It was a great opportunity to put names to faces, and the team was able to make new PR contacts. This year’s awards will take place in November and the team is currently planning the format.

Ones to watch at Christmas

Andy thinks the Apple Watch will be one of the big winners in the run-up to Christmas. But it will also lend authenticity to similar brands. He thinks this will see brands including the Pebble Smart Watch and other android alternatives do very well.

Evan also thinks the release of Windows 10 and launch of a whole new type of laptops, hybrids and tablets will prove very popular at Christmas. New virtual reality headsets may also prove a winner.