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Why Magazine Reviews Can Not Be Trusted

May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( Magazine Reviews Can Not Be Trusted

Some of this article entails me guessing at the motives of magazine editors and reviewers. I can't say with absolute certainty that I'm right, but what I can say is that my experiences with products often differs significantly from the review.  That's all the reason I need to not trust reviews.

In fact, I'm beginning to believe that somebody needs to write reviews of magazine reviews to have some type of quality control of the information that is passed along.

Some people believe, and I'm among them, that the reason magazine reviews are not accurate is because magazines depend on revenue from ad sales.  The advertisers just happen to be the same people who make the products being reviewed.

By the way, this article also applies to other sources that accept advertising such as online forums.

It stands to reason that a magazine is not going to trash a poor product if it means the possibility of losing advertising dollars. If you don't believe me, try to find a bad review of a Great Planes product.

Magazines do two things to give the illusion that their reviews are unbiased.  First, they have the "Hits" and "Misses" portion of the review. The hits are generally the more important things while the misses tend to be insignificant items.

For example:

  • Hits
    • Overall Quality
    • Parts Fit
    • Flight Characteristics
    • Ease of Assembly
  • Misses
    • Minor wrinkles in the covering that came out in half a second with a lukewarm iron

The other way magazines try to make us believe they are impartial is to trash products from smaller companies.  That makes it look like they're willing to be tough reviewers, but again, try to find a review where they do that to a major advertiser.  The funny thing is that often the smaller company's "poor" product is better implemented and higher quality than the big company's "excellent" product.

I doubt all the blame lands on the shoulders of the review editors.  It may be that reviewers, being human, like to get free stuff.  In exchange for their time spent reviewing a product, they get paid and may get to keep the product they review.  If I were a reviewer, it would seem to me that if I gave the products poor reviews I would probably not be asked to do many more reviews.

Another example:

The June 2004 issue of Fly RC magazine contains a review of's Cessna 182.

The reviewer mentions the "light weight" of this model several times.  The model is designed for a .40 - .46 2-stroke or .52 - .63 4-stroke engine.  The wing area is 496 in2.  The wing loading is an incredibly hefty 27.4 oz/ft2!  Certainly not light!

The average .46 size model has a wing loading in the 16-20 oz range.  From 16 ounces and down would be light weight.  From 20 ounces and up is heavy.  27.4 ounces is on the far end of the bell curve of heaviness.

The plane may fly fine and the wing loading may be light for a scale aircraft, but the Cessna is not the lightweight that the reviewer claims it to be.

Rewording the article with the provision "for a scale model" would have made the review more credible.

Unfortunately, he also mentions that he built this model as a trainer.  Again, I haven't flown the model, but I would never recommend this model to anyone as a primary trainer.  That's not the kind of model it is.  That's just bad advice.

Often we have no idea who it is that did the review.  Nor do we know what their skill level is or anything else about them for that matter.  It could be that they just have incredibly low standards or low expectations so they may honestly believe some of the junk they give rave reviews to is actually quality stuff.

Again, I'm guessing, because I really don't know what's going on there. What I do know is that I've seen too many glowing reviews of products that have serious defects, quality issues or performance problems.

The point to this is that there are better sources of information, such as other guys in your club, who can give you more accurate information before you waste your hard-earned money.



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Copyright 2004 Paul K. Johnson