Written May 29, 2016
Those of you who have read my site, know that I’m not fond of most VPN affiliates or their “native advertising” (ie: Usually advertising thinly disguised as content). These sites typically have a slew of “reviews” along with features titled, “Top 10 best VPNs!”, “Top 10 fastest VPNs!”, etc. Typically, their sites require little effort by their creators and almost never contain content beyond echoing official marketing and some anecdotal evidence of using the service. Most people in the research phase of their purchase don’t know better. After all, if the first 10 pages of a Google search return nothing but sites that echo the same shillery, who are they to argue?
Note that not all review sites HAVE to be phony or paid off by virtue of using this type of model, but the sad reality is that the vast majority are, especially in the VPN industry. To discover the root cause of the problem, one need look no further than where the money is coming from, and, going to – These “reviewers” receive a commission by the company every time a reader purchases service using the links in their reviews. Herein lies the conflict of interest.
By it’s nature, this form of business makes it very difficult to find reviews that:
- Are Unbiased – Why should a reviewer be critical of something if it will damage the chances of someone purchasing the service, and therefore lose them money? Why should they recommend one service over another (despite quality) if the worse service offers the bigger payoff? Companies may threaten to penalize or even terminate an affiliate partnership if a review is damning and a “reviewer” might punish a company that pays less or chooses to end an arrangement, in their reviews.
- Dig deep enough into a given service – Why should a reviewer dig through pages of terms and conditions and run a series of tests on a service? It’s almost always easier to parrot marketing from a company’s site and slap a few bullet points next to an affiliate link than it is to actually use a service for a while, put it through it’s paces and come at it critically from several angles to expose every potential flaw or weakness they are able?
- Are about companies with no such affiliate programs – Why should a reviewer pay attention to a company if there is no revenue to be generated by referral links?
Content creators who DO generate reviews honestly, often are not paid enough for an 800 word review to justify the time it takes to use and test a VPN the way it ought to be, which leads to skin-deep reviews that again, don’t contain detailed tests or tell the reader much beyond the obvious. Regardless, even these honest reviewers are drowned out by the much more prominent unethical variety. A few such sites have even contacted me over the last several months offering me review writing work, which I have turned down (despite paying far above normal for this kind of work and my believing they had good intentions), because I wish to remain unquestionably unbiased for my readers and those who follow the project.
Some of the “top” (most advertised) companies in the industry have accepted that this is just the way it works, and they are happy to continue operating with such a scheme. They are good at almost nothing but surviving which they manage with marketing alone.
I feel like the above has been a major problem in the industry that prevents the honest user from learning what they are seeking. The main reasons for my project are 1) Disseminating information, and 2) Industry improvement. To make reliable information available and to be an impetus to help the industry be better than it currently is. I want more solid, transparent VPN companies AND critics of them, to keep them honest and help people bypass the torrential downpour of monopolized search results. It is for this reason, that I have decided to create a VPN Review section of my Project.
To reinforce what this part of the project is about – I’m NOT taking advantage of any reseller programs and I’m NOT being paid by the companies I review. My goal is to inform the reader and set a standard for others to follow. Unlike the model I described above, my interests are aligned with that of my readers. If I receive any monetary compensation for my work, it will ONLY be from readers who find my work good and useful, and wish to contribute to the project.
This is how I plan to do things: Every so often (approx every 1-2 weeks), I will use a random number generator (random.org) to select a service that is currently on the VPN Comparison Chart (with the exception of services exclusive to platforms I don’t use, services that ask their bandwidth only be used for activists, etc). If the chosen service has been selected in the last year, I will skip it and choose another using the same method. At that time I will purchase service with the chosen company and begin using it and putting it through its paces. Once I’m satisfied that I have used it thoroughly enough, I will write a review and post it on my site (repost on reddit, announce on twitter, etc) and I will plan to continue doing this until I either am no longer able due to time constraints or am satisfied that the industry has improved adequately in these regards.
To our friends in the VPN Industry – We’re now expecting more from you.
Update: I have set up a premium random.org account which allows me to post my “rolls” for which review comes next. You can verify the results of my random selections here.
If you like the project and find my work useful, please consider donating – your generous contributions help pay for the hosting, tools, and time I need to do my research and keep the data fresh.