Avon Fails to Understand Online Romance Community

by Keira G on May 22, 2009 · 5 comments

in News, Paranormal

avon4Here’s the situation succinctly: Avon stuck its foot in its mouth.

Lynn S.: In our 2002 interview, you felt that the online world didn’t have much of an impact on sales. Much has changed in the intervening years, and more and more people – including more women – are online now and use reviews as a helpful guide to the buying process. Has Avon changed its thinking in this area? Avon, also, seems not to include many online reviews in books. Are there any plans to change that policy?

May Chen: In my opinion, the online world still doesn’t have much impact on sales as, anecdotally, I’ve seen books get horrible online reviews but have done well. As far as I know, we still don’t include online reviews on our books, but that can certainly change if we see them start making a difference. Right now, the best endorsements for us still seem to be from NYT bestselling authors and from major traditional print reviewers.

Lucia Macro: Do the consumers recognize the source of the quote? I’m not sure that the vast majority of readers recognize all the online sites. When checking their rankings I’m often surprised at how little traffic they really get. We are all very plugged in, but many casual readers are just picking up a book at their local Walmart and barely have time to watch tv, much less wrestle the computer away from their kids. So an author quote might carry more weight with them.

Read the full original interview here.

This sparked a whole bunch of conversation and dialogue across many romance blog sites:

The whole thing as Jane notes is ironic and is summed up quite nicely by Amy of My Friend Amy in this Twitter message.

Pamela Jafee of Avon responds to the backlash with this comment on Lynn’s post. She responds to the accusations in another comment stating that the quotes are direct without editing.

Right below Pamela’s comment is one by Katie Mack linking to Jennifer Crusie’s thoughts about author quotes on books and if I had any confidence in them before it’s completely gone now.

What gets me most is that they assume because bloggers don’t have corporate search engine ranks that we don’t have power and additionally the assumption that was made about online versus offline. Before I started blogging, I did research online for books that I bought, yes I still made impulse buys, but I often gravitate toward books reviewed around the romance community. I don’t really put faith in newspaper ratings for books or movies because oftentimes the reviewer is somebody who clearly doesn’t share any similar tastes with me. They give it a 2 I give it a 4, they give it a 4, I’d never pick it up/go watch it even if you paid me.

As for the rankings… Alexa is complete bunk as most bloggers who blog about blogging say and they take it with a pinch of salt. Google Page Rank used to be highly sought after and now it’s kind of a “well that’s cool, I guess,” rank. Alexa confuses me, but I do know a bit about Google PR. It’s based on Log Base 10 mathematics. To jump one point you must be ten times more powerful than you were in terms of many things that are hard to quantify like: content relevancy, search relevancy, traffic, bounce rate, internal/external links, backlinks, etc. To jump two numbers you have to be hundred times more powerful; three numbers equals a thousand times more powerful, and so on.

Smart Bitches and Dear Author last I knew were both Google PR 5 (out of 10). Love Romance Passion is a 3 and I’m not quite a year old as a blog.

Think about that… that’s a load of people and community sharing to build those numbers. We might not have the numbers of a corporate giant, and we certainly don’t have the capital to push a book, but we’re innovative and the numbers we do have shows just how big the romance community is online.

Google doesn’t think we’re bottom of the food chain, Avon shouldn’t either.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kat May 22, 2009 at 7:26 PM

I don’t know. I still think it’s a storm in a teacup. And I also think the question before the one you quoted above is the problem. The interviewer tried to ask 2 questions at the same time, and it’s unclear whether which one the editors were answering.

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2 katiebabs May 22, 2009 at 9:03 PM

How do you find out your google ranking?
Insert foot into mouth disease ala Avon!

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3 Meghan May 23, 2009 at 4:01 AM

I don’t think many bloggers use the traditional methods of cover quotes/print reviews to buy books anymore. We don’t need to, recommendations for us are everywhere. We definitely interest each other. I wonder if there is a way to track how much influence the online community has on everyone else. I think they’ll become increasingly important as time goes on and more people get as “plugged in” as we are.

I do think Avon didn’t mean any insult, I don’t really think many online reviewers can go on a book at this point either without a particularly amazing quote. By the time I get ARCs, they’ve already got all their quotes anyway, but I don’t know about the bigger bloggers. We definitely have a huge influence, but I think it’s a community influence rather than a single site, and they’re discounting that because there is no magical Julia Quinn among us.

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4 Keira May 23, 2009 at 7:43 AM

Kat and Meghan you might be right, though Sarah and Jane come close to magical Julia Quinn status… lol

Katie — Google PR Checker Type in any address you want to know the rank of and it’ll spit it back out along with a few other ranks that I don’t understand lol

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5 Kat May 23, 2009 at 11:11 PM

Keira, I thought so, too, except that when I went to ARRC I was surprised to find people who’d never heard of DA or SBTB. These were people who paid money to travel and attend a convention, so they were clearly avid romance fans. And that got me thinking about how insular the online community is, which can skew our perception of how much reach the independent review blogs have on the majority of readers.

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