TurnTo CEO George Eberstadt responds to Bazaarvoice CEO Gene Austin’s blog post on open syndication

Last Wednesday, Gene Austin, CEO of Bazaarvoice, published a discussion of the coming end of the Justice Department-mandated syndication relationship between Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews, on July 2, 2018.  As he stated, “Unless something changes, as of July 3rd, Bazaarvoice will no longer be required to accept content from PowerReviews brands for syndication to retailers in the Bazaarvoice Network.”

What does this mean for brands? Review syndication is about to get a lot more expensive.

Bazaarvoice charges brands to syndicate their product reviews to merchant sites in the Bazaarvoice network, whether the brand uses the Bazaarvoice platform for review collection or a third-party platform.  For the last 2.5 years, PowerReviews brand customers have been able to get around these fees because of the Justice Department decree which gave them very low cost access to the Bazaarvoice syndication network.  Now, PowerReviews brand customers are going to have to start paying the network access fees that Bazaarvoice demands, at best, or will lose access to the Bazaarvoice network entirely, at worst.  And since brands using the Bazaarvoice platform will no longer be able to threaten a switch to PowerReviews to avoid the network access fees, they are likely to see their syndication fees rise, too.

Anticipating this, TurnTo built a partnership with Bazaarvoice based on a realistic view of their business model.  This partnership enables brands to choose the reviews platform that best meets their needs and know they can still access the Bazaarvoice syndication network even if their platform choice is TurnTo.  Our brand customers make their own deal with Bazaarvoice regarding the network access fee, and we work directly with Bazaarvoice to ensure the data transfers run smoothly.  It’s a truism that partnerships only work when everyone wins, and we recognized a year ago that meant letting Bazaarvoice control access to their merchant network.  As a result, as of today, TurnTo is the only 3rd party product reviews platform that can assure brands ongoing access to the Bazaarvoice syndication network.

For merchants, the implications are different.  The consequences are going to be about reach rather than cost.

As the cost to brands to syndicate their reviews goes up, or if cross-platform access between Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews is cut off entirely, the number of brands whose reviews are available for syndication on either platform will go down.  Even if cross-platform syndication remains available, rising network access fees will be bad for the relationships between merchants and their vendors.  After all, why should brands have to pay a “network access fee” to a merchant’s reviews platform at all?  The real estate on the merchant’s product pages belongs to the merchant!  If brands pay anything for syndication, it should be a co-op fee to the merchant, not an access fee to the reviews platform.

With this philosophy in mind, TurnTo has developed a radically different syndication offering for merchants.  It enables merchants to syndicate in product reviews from any brand, regardless of their technology platform.  That includes brands that use reviews platforms other than Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews.  And there are no charges (!) for this service to either the merchant or the brands.  By removing both the cost and the technology limitations to syndication, TurnTo enables merchants to access the largest possible network of brand sources.  In one case, a merchant’s syndication network more than doubled after they switched from the Bazaarvoice/PowerReviews network to TurnTo.  TurnTo’s approach also eliminates any risk to merchants that their syndication network will be compromised in the future by spats between the technology platforms.

Like Gene, I am thrilled with the strength of our syndication offerings as we enter 2018.  For brands, we are the only alternative to the Bazaarvoice platform that can offer access to the full Bazaarvoice syndication network without a cloud of uncertainty.  And for merchants, we offer unrivaled syndication reach and an unrivaled value.  I thank Bazaarvoice for their partnership and look forward to working with them in 2018 as the market returns to a more normal competitive environment.  And I invite brands and merchants that would like to learn more about the syndication alternatives available to them to contact us.