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Why do people read reviews posted on consumer-opinion portals?



Consumer reviews are accessible to a huge number of readers online, and thus this electronic word of mouth can affect product performance. This research uses template analysis of readers' stories and interviews to identify themes related to the reading of opinions on review websites (consumer-opinion portals), and within these themes, specific consumer motivations for reading other consumers' reviews. In doing so, it validates reading motivations identified by Hennig-Thurau and Walsh (200337. Hennig-Thurau , T. and Walsh , G. 2003. Electronic word-of-mouth: Motives for and consequences of reading customer articulations on the Internet. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 8(2): 51–74. [Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]View all references), but finds that they do not encompass all motives for reading UK consumer-opinion-portal content. This study helps marketers to decide how to influence and encourage consumers positively to read about their products and what information they should provide. The research was conducted with users of the online opinion platform,
Why do people read reviews posted on consumer opinion portals?
Consumer reviews are accessible to a huge number of readers online, and thus,
this electronic Word-of-Mouth can affect product performance. This research
uses template analysis of readers’ stories and interviews to identify themes
related to the reading of opinions on review websites (consumer opinion portals)
and within these themes, specific consumer motivations for reading other
consumers’ reviews. In doing so, it validates reading motivations identified by
Hennig-Thurau and Walsh’s (2003) but finds that they do not encompass all
motives for reading UK consumer opinion portal (COP) content. This study helps
marketers to decide how to positively influence and encourage consumers to
read about their products and what information they should provide. The
research was conducted with users of the online opinion platform,
Internet, Electronic Word-Of-Mouth, Consumer Opinion Portals, Customer
Reviews, Customer-to Customer Interaction,
This is a pre-print (non-publisher’s document). Please cite the published article:
Burton, J., & Khammash, M. (2010). Why do people read reviews posted on consumer-opinion
portals?. Journal of Marketing Management, 26(3-4), 230-255.
DOI: 10.1080/02672570903566268
Why do people read reviews posted on consumer opinion portals?
The rise in customer-to-customer interaction on the Internet is causing a shift of
the locus of control in marketing communication, away from marketers to
consumers, who can be more selective about; and involved in the creation of; the
information they obtain about products, companies and consumption behaviour.
Internet consumer-opinion platforms allow consumers to read electronic word-of-
mouth from a wide range of individuals choosing to share consumption
experiences. Implicit communities (Resnick and Varian, 1997; Resnick,
Zeckhauser, Friedman and Kuwabara, 2000; and Schafer, Konstan and Riedl,
1999) are a special category of discussion communities dedicated to the
exchange (via asynchronous writing and reading) of information about,
experiences with and recommendation of, particular entities. Examples include
Amazon and eBay communities and independent opinion platforms such as, and Virtual or consumer-opinion portals (or
platforms), let people read consumer reviews on virtually any product or
company. Reviews on these portals generally include a textual review of a
product, a formal product rating (often numeric in nature), the number of other
readers who found the review useful and/or the degree of usefulness, and a link
to information about the review writer. was selected for this research,
on which review writers have to become registered members of the site and can
provide personal comments about themselves and an uploaded picture. An
indication of how many other users trust their opinions, the number of reviews
they have written and how long they have been a member of the site, are also
included in a brief profile. This information about writers, which is provided in
much greater depth than that typically given with reviews on retailer websites
such as, along with the ability for users to message each other,
allows reader to better estimate source credibility, trustworthiness and expertise.
The impact of consumer reviews is set to increase as Internet users spend more
time on consumer-generated media, search and entertainment sites and less on
content sites and communication (Burmaster, 2008). This paper will inspect the
motivations for reading customer reviews on COPs and explore associated
behaviours, with a view to helping managers improve reader engagement and
information assimilation.
Person-to-person influence within social systems has been recognised, for
hundreds of years with Buttle (1998) highlighting Aristotle’s fourth century BC
commentaries on discourse. Last century, Lazarsfeld, Berelson and Gaudet
(1944) and Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) developed key work describing flows of
interpersonal information and influence. The effect of word-of-mouth (WOM) on
consumer behaviour and product sales has been recognised for over fifty years
(Whyte, 1954; Dichter, 1966; Arndt, 1967) and businesses can attempt to
manage customer WOM effects (Haywood, 1989; Buttle, 1998; Mangold, Miller
and Brockway, 1999). WOM also influences long-term perceptions of products,
post purchase and use (Bone, 1995). Arndt (1967, p.5) defines WOM as “oral,
person-to-person communication between a receiver and a communicator whom
the receiver perceives as non-commercial, regarding a brand, a product or a
service”. Stern (1994) recognised its ephemeral and oral/spoken nature.
However, Buttle (1998) highlights that with the dawning of a new electronic age,
WOM no longer needs to be oral conducted face to face or even directly between
two individuals and no longer necessarily remains ephemeral.
Hennig-Thurau et al. define eWOM communication as, “any positive or negative
statement made by potential, actual, or former customers about a product or
company, which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions via
the Internet.” (Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004, p.39). The Internet offers opportunities
for new forms of online WOM, including product reviews, which possess more
permanence than oral WOM. This longevity and range of opinions attracts
readers. As the Internet becomes more popular, users have started to unite with
one another online, creating virtual communities (Goldsmith and Horowitz (2006).
The Internet allows a combination permanency, asynchronous information
transfer and ease of accessibility that has significant implications for WOM
impact (Stauss, 1997; 2000; Bailey, 2005). Individuals’ susceptibility to eWOM
opinions of review writers increases as they become more involved with a
community (Kozinets, 1999) and COP design can promote tie strength between
users and promote relational behaviours (through trust and social norms) that
generates more effective eWOM (Hung and Li, 2007). Website longevity is also
important: Parka and Lee (2009) found that effect of eWOM is greater for
established versus non-established sites.
Thus, the Internet has brought revolution to the market and businesses
have had to reassess their concept of value creation, competitive advantage and
marketing strategy in the market space,” because of its evolution (Rayport and
Sviokla, 1994). However, despite recognising the Internet as a new channel
opportunity or even the basis for the development of a new business model,
companies have generally been slow to respond to consumers’ ability to bond
with each other in novel, influential, and flexible ways (Goldsmith and Horowitz,
2006). Untargeted marketing online is not necessarily effective, with Grant (2005)
cautioning that future consumers (13-17 year olds) are experiencing frustration
and subsequent cynicism with aggressive online marketing. Armstrong and
Hagel (1995) suggest that business ventures should look beyond advertising on
the Internet and set up online communities inferring a dynamic plan to investigate
eWOM and attempt to steer it (Lindgreen and Vanhamme 2005) and Kozinets
(1999) suggests that consumer behaviours within virtual communities of
consumption can be segmented.
Vargo and Lusch (2004; 2008) highlight that the locus of control in the
creation of value is with the consumer perception of a value that is co-created
between supplier and customer(s). The Internet is now generating opportunities
for value creation to occur between a wider group of stakeholders, with the value
of any product increasingly established in part, through consumer-to-consumer
interaction, rather than solely with marketers via business-to-consumer
promotion or communication. Bickart and Schindler (2001) discovered that
consumers who researched products through reading online discussions showed
greater product interest than those who received product information from
marketer generated sources. The spread of consumer-opinion platforms and
increasing volume of content suggests that eWOM reviews affect consumer
buying and communication behaviour and influence the success of products
(Stauss, 1997; 2000; Godes and Mayzlin, 2004; Thorson and Rodgers, 2006;
Gruen et al., 2006). In order to understand the impact of COPs on consumer
decision-making, it is essential to identify the motives that influence consumers to
search for information from these sources.
Motivation is an internal phenomenon, causing individuals to conduct a particular
action, arising due to perceived unfulfilled need(s) that move the individual “away
from psychological equilibrium (Evans, Jamal and Foxall, 2006, p.4). Tauber’s
(1972, p.47-48) shopping motivations draw on physiological and psychological
themes. He identifies personal motives (role playing, diversion, self-gratification,
learning about new trends, physical activity and sensory stimulation) and social
motives (social experiences outside the home, communication with others with
similar interests, peer group attraction, [a feeling of] status and authority and
pleasure of bargaining). However, motivations for information search in an online
environment differ in nature from motivations for the shopping process itself, for
instance Tauber’s (1972, p.47-48) motives of “physical activity”, “status and
authority” and “pleasure of bargaining” are unlikely to drive reading behaviour.
Kozinets (1999) reviews behaviour of consumers within individual product/brand
online consumption communities. “Informational” behaviour (communicating to
achieve specific ends, [e.g. information about product availability] [Kozinets,
1999, p.255]), can involve searching for product opinions (Bailey, 2005;
Goldsmith and Horowitz, 2006). Theory of risk-taking suggests that consumers
decide to buy a product under a degree of uncertainty about the given brand
(Sheth and Venkatesan, 1968). Taylor (1974) credits Raymond Bauer with first
formally proposing in 1960 that consumer behaviour should be viewed as risk
taking and Taylor highlights that consumers face uncertainty about
consequences and outcomes and can choose to reduce consequences and/or
uncertainty about outcome of actions. Sheth and Venkatesan (1968) highlighted
three methods of reducing uncertainty of outcome; (i) relying on brand image or
purchase experience, (ii) Pre-purchase deliberation over information available
following (iii) information seeking particularly from informal, personal and buyer-
orientated sources. Roselius (1971) identifies informational search methods
(including WOM seeking), in an offline context, that consumers use to rank
methods of risk reduction. Hennig-Thurau and Walsh (2003) identify risk
reduction as a motive for reading online opinions, showing some similarity of
purpose to Tauber’s (1972) offline “pleasure of bargaining” shopping motive: the
goal of a “wise” buy. Personal opinions found on Internet forums are more likely
to be perceived trustworthy (and thus less risky) and more relevant to the
consumer because they perceive the source to be similar to themselves (Bickart
and Schindler, 2001). Hennig-Thurau and Walsh (2003) and Goldsmith and
Horowitz (2006) highlight that consumers use COPs to reduce search time (and
purchase effort), previously identified as motives offline (Schiffman and Kanuk,
1987; Gross, 1987; Spears, 2001). Granitz and Ward’s (1996) and Hennig-
Thurau and Walsh (2003) suggest that a high percentage of words in online
forums are devoted to product recommendation and discussions of how to use
or consume a product. Opinion platforms allow a customer to search for
information in an individualized manner and learn what products are new in the
marketplace” (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003; Goldsmith and Horowitz, 2006)
or as Tauber (1972) identified in an offline context, to “learn about new trends”.
Dissonance reduction derives from cognitive dissonance (Sweeney,
Hausknecht, and Soutar, 2000). Having selected a product, customers may feel
cognitive incongruence linked to “information” about choices rejected and need
reassurance that they had made, a good (correct) choice and thus read online
opinion (Bailey, 2005; Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003; Goldsmith and Horowitz,
2006). Opinion platforms may reward consumers for reading reviews. Seeking
personal “remuneration” has been identified as a behaviour motivation offline
(Deci, Koestner, and Ryan, 1999) and as an online reading motivation (Hennig-
Thurau and Walsh, 2003).
“Relational” behaviour is essentially that of seeking social involvement
over time (Kozinets, 1999) and thus can be associated with the motive;
belonging to a virtual community” (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003). Fischer,
Bristor, and Gainer, (1996), argue that online communities can be exclusively
helpful and empowering for consumers. Customer bonding within a community
plays a role in its success. Szmigin and Reppel (2004) and Bickart and Schindler
(2001) highlight the significance of recognising the importance of social
interaction in website design, mirroring Tauber’s (1972, p.48) offline identification
of shopping motives: “communication with others with similar interests” and “peer
group attraction”. Consumers read reviews on COPs to assess products and
associated social prestige, in order to determine their social position” (Schiffman
and Kanuk, 1987; Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003). Bailey (2005) suggested
that becoming an opinion leader seemed to lead consumers to greater
awareness and use of product review websites (a greater motivation for men).
Goldsmith and Horowitz (2006) note that consumers use COPs to
rationally maximise the ratio of functional, product benefits to costs (seeking
information) but also build on the observations of hedonic consumption of
Hirschman and Holbrook (1982) recognising that for some, reading customers’
reviews is considered to be enjoyable and a source of fun. Reading is a
recreational” mode of consumption interaction that provides short-term
satisfaction (Kozinets, 1999). The aim of this research is to develop
understanding of the behavioural contexts and linked motives for reading online
Two research questions arise from the literature, guiding the research. Hennig-
Thurau and Walsh (2003) identify eight reading motives for users of a German
on-line COP. The above review of motives for online reading behaviour suggests
that additional reading motives may exist and the following section outlines a
methodology for deriving understanding of themes of reading in a COP context.
Thus, the following research questions were posed:
What are the key themes of reading motivation for COP users?
Do Hennig-Thurau and Walsh’s (2003) eight reading motives capture all
reading motives for users of a UK on-line COP (Ciao)?
Can any additional motivations for reading consumer opinions in a U.K. on-
line COP be identified?
The aim of this research is to identify motives for reading customer reviews
online within the UK market (where over 68% of the population used the Internet
in 2008 [Anonymous, 2008a; Anonymous, 2008b]). Qualitative methods are
appropriate for this study due to the general paucity of research in the area at a
holistic level and the subsequent need for exploratory research to improve and
check understanding of the underlying causes of human action (Miles and
Huberman, 1994) inductively (Speake, 1984). Access to suitable respondents
was agreed with Ciao Sites were one of the fastest growing COPs
during 2007, increasing 31% to 29.6 million visitors per month in May 2007
(Lipsman, 2007) and over 38 million worldwide by August 2008 (Anonymous,
2008d). Visitors can simply read reviews placed on Ciao, or they can register to
become members of the Ciao community and write as well as read product
reviews. Review writers can receive small payments for some product specific
successful reviews, dependent on those reviews being read and positively rated
by readers. The issue of remuneration was investigated during the second stage
(interview phase) of the research to understand its potential impact on reading
motivations. Template analysis was adopted (King, 2004) and twenty-five
members of Ciao online community were identified and took part (8 male, 17
female, Appendix 1) being rewarded £10 each. Recruitment was via
advertisements in the Ciao website, emphasising that interaction in a private one-
to-one exchange about the experience of reading consumers’ online opinions
about products was required (Bennet, 1998).
Two stages of qualitative research were used with the same respondents;
storytelling and real-time online interviews followed by member checks.
Respondents were questioned asynchronously via a single e-mailed request to
respond with a detailed ‘story’ of their experiences of using Ciao (Appendix 2),
which resulted in ‘narratives’ and ‘stories’ (Gabriel and Griffiths, 2004). “Research
using stories is still in its infancy” and “there is no one dominant way of using
them” (Gabriel and Griffiths, 2004, p.115) and there is limited record of story
coding using template analysis in business research. However, template analysis
has been widely proven in healthcare studies and with increasing acceptance of
the need to utilise qualitative interpretive approaches in order to develop greater
depth of understanding in business research it was adopted because it best
delivers understanding of themes of (reading) motivation (the aim of this
research) (King, 2004). Gabriel (2000) suggests that stories deliver
understanding in the form of ‘meaning’ rather than ‘facts’. Template analysis
allowed the researchers to code the meanings derived from the stories into
reading themes. A key alternative, interpretative phenomenological analysis
(IPA) allows less flexibility than was required across the two research
approaches. An initial template was developed and added to during the research
consisting of a priori codes developed from the literature, as recommended by
King, (2004). The template was developed through analysis of the stories and
narratives and was then applied to (and further developed by analysis of)
interview generated data in the second stage of research.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) instant messaging software (Mann and Stewart,
2000) was used to interview respondents in stage 2. A semi-structured interview
schedule was developed from the literature, open questions on reading
motivations (Flick, 1998) and analysis of the stories. The questions schedule
began with general enquiries about respondents; why they read online customer
opinion about products; the opinion portals used; the types of products searched
for online; and the time spent sourcing information before buying. Bolfing (1988),
Martin (1998) and Hennig-Thurau and Walsh (2003) highlight a distinction in
online reading behaviour between low- and high-involvement products and this
was investigated with two questions designed to explicitly distinguish between
and encourage discussion of reading motivations for low- versus high-
involvement products. To help respondents understand the distinction, examples
of low- and high-involvement products were discussed. Questions designed to
check for presence of the eight motives identified by Hennig-Thurau and Walsh
(2003) were asked and the impact of positive and negative reviews on
consumers was investigated. Additionally, questions attempted to understand the
importance of online COPs compared to traditional sources of information: family,
friends (Brown and Reingen, 1987) and celebrities (Bone, 1995). A final question:
Is there any other reason that we have not discussed that makes you want to
read customer opinion online?’ was designed to uncover any untapped motives.
An online pilot study was conducted on a convenience sample to assess
the data collection approach and this developed the researchers’ understanding
of the area of research (Daymon and Holloway, 2002) and facilitated question
modification. Synchronous one-to-one, in-depth interviews lasting between one
to two hours were then conducted with the revised questionnaire schedule and
responses captured electronically. The semi-structured questions were
supported with additional probing, necessary in such a text-based context, where
ambiguity could arise from faulty sentence structure or misunderstanding of
connotation (Mann and Stewart, 2000). Use of IRC allowed rapid response and
negotiation of meaning between researcher and respondent at the same time
avoiding any inherent embarrassment of face-to-face interaction (Bennett, 1998).
Finally, participants were e-mailed a summary of the meanings originating
from their story and interview, and comments on the accuracy requested.
Responses were checked to ensure that the researchers’ interpretation of the
meanings an individual respondent expressed matched the meanings the
respondents intended to convey, in order to improve interpretive reliability
(Lincoln and Guba 1985; Catterall and Maclaran, 2002; Huberman and Miles,
2002). Rich and extensive descriptions of participants’ experiences were
generated. For each of the 25 respondents their story, plus interview and
member check statement amounted to between two to five thousand words. The
shortest contribution was 2017 words and the lengthiest 4,537 words, whilst
seventeen respondents contributed more than 2,500 words. Given the depth and
richness of data collected and the purpose of understanding themes underlying
reading motivations, the sample of 25 is sufficient, with King (2004, p.257)
highlighting that between 20-30 is common.
Motivation Analysis
Analysis was conducted using Nvivo 7 software, identifying reading
themes, underlying reading motives and behavioural modes. Analysis of the text
adhered to the template method explained by Crabtree and Miller (1999)
developed by King (1998). This involves the creation of a coding template that
consists of codes indicating themes identified in the data through careful reading
and re-reading of the text. Unlike some forms of phenomenological analysis (e.g.
Hycner, 1985), it is usual in template analysis to identify a prior number of
themes that display areas relevant to the project objective (King et al., 2002) and
this was achieved via a review of key literature. Various themes of reading were
identified. Second level reading motivational codes were developed from within
these themes, consisting of ‘emergent’ codes (King, 2004) plus motivations
identified in the literature, including the original eight of Hennig-Thurau and
Walsh (2003). These reading motives were associated with (and resulted in)
particular reading related behaviours reported by the respondents. Parallel
coding of textual data was conducted with some segments of text classified
within more than one code (King, 2004). Although template analysis focuses on
richness of understanding rather than numerical comparison, demographics
(Evans, Jamal and Foxall, 2006) of respondents mentioning each motivation
were recorded (Appendix 3).
Hennig-Thurau and Walsh’s (2003) eight reading motives did not capture all
reading motives for users of Ciao and additional motivations for reading
consumer opinions in a U.K. on-line COP were identified. Seven first level
themes of reading were developed from the analysis, within which eighteen
reading motives were coded (Figure 1 and Appendix 4). All eight original
motivations of Hennig-Thurau and Walsh (2003) were confirmed as motivation
codes allocated within the themes: “decision involvement”, “product involvement”,
“economic involvement”, and “social involvement”. These themes showed some
limited similarity to the five motive factors derived by Hennig-Thurau and Walsh
(2003) by factor analysis. New “emergent” motivation codes were grouped under
the theme of social-involvement and three new themes: “self-involvement”,
“consumer empowerment” and “site-involvement”.
(Insert Figure 1 about here)
Figure 1: Reading Themes, Motives and Associated Behaviours
Reading Themes Reading Motives Reported Behaviours
Risk reduction
Reduction of search time
Dissonance reduction
To learn how product is to
be consumed
To learn what products are
new in the marketplace
Trusted product opinion
Average/ non-expert product
Unique product experience
Self Improvement:
-Curiosity and broadening of
- Improving language/writing
Self Indulgence:
- Fun and enjoyment
- Compulsive habit and
Determination of social
Preferred authors
Belonging to a virtual
Mediated advisor
Understanding people
Encourage reciprocal
Administrative motives
Reading reviews
Reading reviews in
order to offer general
help to the site
management team
Reading reviews and
informing 3rd parties
Examining review
accuracy and
Reading reviews by
particular individuals
Decision Involvement
Reading consumer reviews was helpful when making a buying decision for
all respondents across three motives within the theme of “decision involvement”;
“risk reduction” and “reduction of search time” (combined by Hennig-Thurau and
Walsh (2003) as a factor; “obtaining buying-related information”) and “dissonance
reduction” (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003, p.58).
Readers were motivated to reduce risks relating to products they were
interested in purchasing; checking reviews to help them make the best product
choice at the best price. However, variation in review relevance was an inherent
I would like to think it helps me get the best product if its written by someone
who knows the product.... but let’s face it...people do write things about products
they really don’t know,” (Alan, Male [M], Age: 40 - 49, Education: Undergraduate
Degree [UD]).
Depending on writer credibility, interests and life experience, there is always an
element of doubt, as people have different tastes, (Ben, M, < 20, A-levels [A]).
Respondents were motivated to read multiple reviews in order to reduce risk of
being mislead by individual sources (both online and offline). Readers attempted
to mitigate for misleading sources, by interpreting reviews with care; trying to
select reviews by reviewers with similar views and using their own experience
and judgment to appraise review accuracy.
A self-perceived lack of time motivated respondents to read reviews:
It cuts down my shopping time by at least 3/4 as I have usually made my choice
before I purchase the item,” (Fiona, Female [F], 40-49, Vocational Degree [VD]).
However, for some reading stimulated longer search:
It increases my search time because I'd normally ignore things I see on TV, etc.
but actually reading about how something actually helped someone or why they
liked it, I'd then want to know more about it,” (Debbie, F, 20-29, UD).
‘Dissonance reduction’ reflected a desire by consumers to read to gather
information to check their buying decision (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003,
“We usually want to reassure ourselves we didn’t waste money, by gaining
opinion from other purchasers, many of whom I have read for years.” (Helen, F,
30-39, Postgraduate degree [P]).
Product Involvement
Respondents read online opinions for information about products. Firstly,
to “learn how a product is to be consumed” (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003,
A review will normally tell you the facts behind the they work or are
they easy to use...” (Gary, M, 30-39, VD).
They suggested that this information is not found on manufacturer’s websites,
nor can it be gleaned, in such quantity, from personal sources. Whilst two-thirds
of respondents suggested that reading customer opinions helped them to learn
what products are new in the marketplace” (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003,
p.58) a third suggested that COPs played a secondary role and that other
sources (e.g. magazines) often brought new products to their attention, which
they would then read about on the portal.
Economic Involvement
A characteristic of some opinion portal sites is remuneration” (Hennig-
Thurau and Walsh, 2003, p.58) and “economic involvement” was identified, as a
theme with remuneration a motive that could stimulate reading:
I suppose it would or does encourage me. It might prompt me to read a review
that I wasn't really that interested in,” (Julia, F, 30-39, P).
Consumer empowerment
A “consumer empowerment” theme was identified, concerned with
consumers’ need to understand the nature of the perceived quality/ uniqueness
of information about products, on their terms, to help them become more
informed in order to make better buying decisions. Three motives were identified
within consumer empowerment: “trusted product opinion”, “average/non-expert
product opinion” and “unique product experience”.
Although trust results from relational behaviour, the “trusted product
opinion” motive is concerned with gaining empowerment by acquiring knowledge
(information) from a trusted source. Ability to read “trusted” opinions plays an
essential role in determining credibility of online customer opinion and over a
third of the respondents read reviews because they had learnt to trust particular
writers and believe their opinions. Many users become members of the site and
build relationships with review writers by messaging writers directly and/or
admitting them formally to their ‘circle of trust’ (Anonymous, 2008c):
“Most of the reviewers I read, I trust them and their opinions and I also get a
great view on what to expect. I trust these reviews unlike the companies, as they
have no vested interest and get no sales or commission,” (Jacqueline, F, 30-39,
Respondents also gained empowerment by obtaining knowledge through
reading realistic non-expert product opinions” written by ordinary people like
themselves. The man-in-the-street, non-expert status of reviewers, surmised
from the personal information that they post on the site, linked to their review,
lends them a level of authenticity and credibility. Respondents read reviews in
order to avoid expert opinions. They believe that companies try to manipulate
them through advertising and mistrust ‘experts’ who may be in the pay of
marketers. They are motivated to search for other people perceived to be like
“For me Ciao is the perfect site for a consumer like myself to find real opinions by
real people who have tried and tested the products rather than listening to or
reading the marketing ploys of many companies,” (Gemma, F, 20-29, A).
Finally, respondents were motivated to read consumers’ unique product
experiences in online reviews, finding exclusive knowledge, unavailable through
any other medium or channel:
“It's the stuff you can't find anywhere else that interests me…this is the stuff that's
not available on the manufacturer's/retailer's websites,” (Aaron, M, 30-39, UD).
The theme of “self-involvement” consisting of two second-level
motivations: “self-improvement” (a perceived desire to learn and develop) and
“self-indulgence” (a perceived desire to entertain or occupy oneself) was
Two sub-components of the motive of self-improvement” were “curiosity
and broadening of horizons” and “improving language skills”. Readers read
online customer reviews to expand their general knowledge and to satisfy their
curiosity. They read many reviews so they learnt something from them, even if
they were about products that they might not necessarily be interested in
“I read customer reviews as a way to broaden my horizons. I like to read, so I can
get inspiration and try things I otherwise might not have heard of, such as books I
might not have heard of, places I might not have heard of or been to, films I might
be interested in, places to go…all these things can be new to me, but not
necessarily ‘new’.” (Helen, F, 30-39, P).
Whilst curiosity and broadening of horizons might appear to be related to Hennig-
Thurau and Walsh’s (2003) fourth motive Learning what products are new in the
marketplace” it is distinct in that respondents were looking to expand their
knowledge at a general level rather than looking for knowledge about new
products specifically.
A few members also “improved their language skills” by reading others’
reviews and comparing them with their own in order to improve their review
writing style, presentation and content and also to enable them to see valuable
points that other users covered:
“I found that by reading other people's reviews, my own standards of grammar
got better. My spelling had always been decent enough, but I had found that my
grammar was quite poor.” (Aaron, M, 30-39, UD).
Two sub-components of “self-indulgence” were identified: fun and
enjoyment” and “compulsive habit and boredom”. Respondents enjoyed reading
reviews of things that they were not necessarily interested in purchasing,
considering it an enjoyable way to pass time:
“I thoroughly enjoy using Ciao as you can access thousands of reviews about
different products that are written by people like me.” (Gemma, F, 20-29, A).
Some also admitted that they read regularly due to compulsive habit and
“In a short space of time I have come to like it, it is very addictive.” (Michelle, F,
30-39, VD).
Social Involvement
The theme of ‘Social involvement’ was associated with reading conducted
in order to facilitate socialisation. Of the six motives identified within the social
involvement” theme, two: “determination of social position”, and “belonging to a
virtual community” were identified by Hennig-Thurau and Walsh (2003, p.58).
Four emergent motives were also identified: “preferred authors”, “mediated
advisor”, “understanding people” and “encourage reciprocal reading”.
The social function of consumption was supported by the identification of
the behaviour of social comparison associated with the motive of “determination
of social position” (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003, p.58). Ciao provides links to
reviewer photographs and brief personal summaries and allows users to review
and discuss personal life experiences in a separate area of the site. This allows
readers to read reviews whilst also appraising reviewer characteristics and
personality and comparing their own relative views:
“I do so that I see whether someone has the same opinion as me or if they don’t
why not and to see whether I relate to their way of thinking about the product,”
(Gina, F, 20-29, UD).
Hennig-Thurau and Walsh’s (2003, p.58) motivation of “belonging to a
virtual community” was also identified. Respondents became closer to the Ciao
community through reading, developing a sense of belonging, friendship and
shared interests:
Some members have become friends and I talk to them either on the site via
guestbook’s or via email…and I've also joined a forum, which is run by a Ciao
member.” (Helena, F, 20-29, UD).
Some respondents identified preferred authors on the Ciao website.
Respondents chose to read particular reviews because they liked the style with
which a particular member wrote:
“You like them and you want to see their particular slant on things, a bit like
reading your favourite columnist in a paper… that's how I read my most favourite
writers” (Magdalena, F, 30-39, P).
Two “social involvement” motives were tentatively identified for just one
respondent each. Acting as a “mediated advisor” was a motive where a member
read customer reviews online when friends or family (without Internet access/
time/ search skills) asked them to find information on a product. The motive of
“understanding people” was identified for a respondent, whose job involved a
community role, who read to understand peoples’ characters and views:
“It’s highly important to be in the real world, to know and understand trends in
society, and speak the 'message' appropriately. Sometimes that is not so easy if
opportunity to interact with people is limited.” (Trevor, M, >50, UD).
A fourth motive identified within the social involvement theme was to
“encourage reciprocal reading”. Review writers are keen to encourage others to
read their reviews and one way they feel that they can do this is to read others’
reviews in return:
"I have to read and rate what other members write, as a way of encouraging
them to read mine in return" (Trevor, M, >50, UD).
Site Involvement
The final emergent theme “site involvement” concerned respondents
motivated to carry out “administrative” duties for the site. This refers to members’
desire to contribute in maintaining the Ciao website and helping the management
team to keep it active and well organised. This administrative motivation to read
is driven by the relationship between members and Ciao, as distinct from the
“belonging to a virtual community” (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003, p.58)
motive, which has members and their relationships with one another as its foci.
The “administrative” motive is associated with two behaviours: “examining review
accuracy and availability” and “reading reviews in order to offer general help to
the site management team”. A site user might “examine review accuracy and
availability” to check whether a review for a particular product is needed and
whether it might be worthwhile writing it:
“I sometimes decide NOT to write about something if it's a boring product and
there is already a few review that pretty much say everything I would like to say,
(Magdalena, F, 30-39, P).
Some users feel that they have an obligation to help keep the site active, rate the
quality of the reviews and keep them in the right order, thus they “read reviews in
order to offer general help to the site management team”:
“There is reading 'to give back to the site'; as I am a community guide for Kids
and Family on dooyoo and thus I read everything in that category by default,
that's my responsibility…and that goes with reading and contributing to the site.”
(Magdalena, F, 30-39, P).
By identifying underlying themes of reading motives, we are able to better
identify, understand and influence individual online information assimilation. The
final template provides an interrelated conceptual framework of themes within
which reading motivations can be identified. The linking of motives to associated
behaviours allows COP providers to segment and target customers based on
reading behaviours in order to encourage increased reading of reviews.
“Consumer empowerment” gained through reading non-expert opinion,
echoes Bickart and Schindler (2001), with users’ opinions more trusted sources
than corporate channels. This theme highlights over-lap between themes, with
trust also leading to “risk reduction” (Bickart and Schindler, 2001). Thus, template
analysis delivers interrelated themes (Miles and Huberman, 1994) and here, a
set of distinct motivations for reading online opinions, which can be targeted by
opinion portal managers/ marketers to attract and trigger interaction of, or with,
particular individual consumers. Ciao rewards the best reviews with a higher rate
of remuneration because they attract greater numbers of readers and this
attracts sponsors to the site, who want to create links to their retail sites or to
conduct research within the Ciao community. Thus, Ciao could share motivations
for reading, with writers, to enable better review writing. However, an ethical
concern is whether the motivations could be exploited by marketers to develop a
template for writing corporate reviews disguised as consumer opinion on COPs.
Although the longevity of writers’ membership on Ciao and their record of
reviewed products can give some reassurance that they are a genuine, credible,
member of the public, firms could pay people to write positive reviews about their
products. Ciao attempts to prevent this by allowing members to add reviewers to
their ‘circle of trust’, if they find their reviews ‘consistently interesting and helpful
(Anonymous, 2008c). However whilst promoting relationships between writers
does go some-way to aiding the spotting of obvious ‘mercenary’ review writing,
mercenaries can still write consistently interesting and helpful reviews
(particularly if they understand reading motivations) and ultimately they could
escape detection if their paid reviews for one organisation are mixed with other
reviews, or if they are paid by a number of varied companies.
An interesting motive within the social involvement theme was the idea of
a reader playing a role as a mediated advisor. This mirrors the offline work of
Feick and Price (1987) into market mavens’ motivations to provide other
consumers with market-place information. The mediated advisor effectively
receives eWOM and then passes on WOM. This means that the WOM received
by the advised consumer is interpreted and reformed, thus the information they
receive is shaped by at least two individuals (more if the mediated advisor reads
multiple reviews).
Review of individuals’ motives and demographics offers tentative insight
into potential targeting of segments of readers. Tables A2 and A3 in Appendix 3
suggest that men might be particularly interested in reading about product
specific information (product involvement and consumer empowerment themes)
and that women may be more interested in learning from ‘average/non-expert
product opinions of fellow consumers (consumer empowerment theme) and
more motivated by site involvement. Education level appeared to lead to
increased propensity to be motivated, by social involvement, to read ‘preferred
authors’ and ‘determine social position’ (the latter particularly for women).
Remuneration was a more significant motive for younger rather than older site
users. The link between reading motives and demographics offers opportunities
for marketers promoting products targeting particular demographic groups to
highlight product attributes and associations that offer opportunities for review
writing and reading. For example, products for men should be designed to
involve ‘interesting’ technical processes of product consumption that can be
easily shared with potential reviewers.
Marketers should improve links from websites/advertisements to COP
sites, as advertising can lead to new product awareness and consequent COP
use. If marketers can provide expert and non-expert Q&A sections on corporate
websites then reviewers may link back to and discuss this, increasing potential
traffic from COPs to corporate websites. The motive “dissonance reduction”
(Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003, p.58) also suggests that product suppliers
should provide easy access (post purchase) to information and discussion
forums. The “curiosity and broadening of horizons” motive champions the
provision of ‘products that may interest you’ sections on Ciao and online retail
platforms. However, readers do look for “average/non-expert product opinion”
and “unique product experience” to provide “consumer empowerment” (Fischer,
Bristor, and Gainer, 1996), suggesting some reluctance to view corporate
websites. “Compulsive habit and boredom” highlights a need to keep COPs
evolving in terms of reviews added and potential social interactions for the
individual. Ciao recognise the importance of interaction in order for readers to
develop trust. A key risk-related issue was recognition that whilst content of
functional product reviews could usually be accepted on face value, content of
reviews of high-involvement, creative/ artistic products would vary, depending on
reviewer. Ciao encourage “usefulness” ratings of reviews and readers can
‘socialise’ on the site in order to try to assess similarity of taste. Reviewers
should perhaps, be given opportunities to reveal their character more formally,
directly alongside (rather than linked to) their reviews of creative/ artistic products
and to discuss the aspects of their character that they think cause them to value
particular aspects of the product. The addition of video reviews allows more
scope for reviewers to express themselves creatively, whilst making reviews, but
these are limited in quantity at this time. Research should investigate whether
video reviews are more desirable for appraising creative/ artistic products than
functional/ practical products.
The motive “reading preferred authors” suggests review sites should
highlight higher rated reviewers more clearly, however they might gain star
status and excessive power. The popularity of the “administrative motives” shows
scope for co-creation of value through the creation of site content with potential
writers. The motive of “reduction of search time” (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh,
2003, p.58) was not true for some readers, who spent longer searching.
Providing short and long reviews would allow those who want to shop more
efficiently the chance to search quickly, whilst those who enjoy the search
process can enjoy the richness that longer reviews offer.
Gatignon and Robertson (1986) in their exchange theory model of
interpersonal communication suggest that if an individual supplies information to
another then the recipient is obliged to provide benefits of some form in return.
Interestingly the nature of the Caio website for some turns the focus of reciprocity
from being a response to value of information shared to being a reciprocal
building of the ranking of the source credibility of anyone reading your reviews.
Ciao encourages review writers to strive to have their reviews rated and ‘trusted’
by others and this process of feedback and recognition appears to make some
writers feel obligated to read other peoples reviews as a means to encourage
them to read and rate their own work. Gatignon and Robertson (1986) also
suggest that ‘source attractiveness’ (physical attractiveness, prestige and
similarity to receiver) enhances the influence of interpersonal communication.
Ciao allows writers to include photographs which display their physical
attractiveness’ and write about themselves which allows readers to assess their
‘prestige’ and ‘similarity’. Whilst source attractiveness was not identified as a
reading motive, it may be an antecedent of the self-indulgent motive of ‘fun and
enjoyment’, encompassed within the theme of self-involvement.
Limitations and further research
This inductive research has identified a wider set of themes than those in
the deductive Hennig-Thurau and Walsh (2003) study. Future research could test
the motivations identified with factor analysis, however robustness of the less
frequently identified codes may need further investigation. Specifically data
identifying the motivations of “mediated advisor”, “understanding people” and
“encourage reciprocal reading” was limited but this does not decry their
importance (King, 2004). Future research could investigate the type of
information that mediated advisors search for, specifically whether it is utilitarian
or hedonic in nature. Self- and social involvement motivations that may be more
dependent upon personal circumstance in contrast to more commonly
experienced motives such as decision- and product involvement are important.
Tauber (1972, p.48) provides some support for “understanding people”, noting
that “people watching” is a shopping motive. The motives identified are also
context specific, restricted to the COP Ciao. Further research should test the
motives with users of other opinion portals to check their robustness. The
demographic differences highlighted in the data are interesting, but tentative at
this stage as the template analysis approach was used to build depth of
understanding of motives rather than generalisable quantitative conclusions on
frequencies. Future research should investigate demographic impact on reading
motivations to aid targeting responses.
The qualitative approach facilitated the highlighting of contradictions in the
explanatory powers of the coded data. Some issues that were important for some
respondents were irrelevant or highlighted as very unimportant for others. Future
research needs to test (and possibly build on) the full list of motives identified in
this research across other COPs and websites, utilising the themes identified in
order to develop a robust reading motive model and explore further the
interaction between demographic variables and reading motives in order to build
greater understanding of why consumers engage with each other. A more holistic
understanding of readers’ motivations for reading opinions on online COPs is
needed accounting for portal characteristics and personal situations of readers.
This paper supports the validity of the findings of previous research by
Hennig-Thurau and Walsh (2003) conducted in a German context. Their findings
were validated in the UK context, but additional reading motives were coded
within emergent themes that provide a more comprehensive explanation of COP
reading. The identification of reading motives associated with online reading
behaviours offers greater scope for a segmented approach to understanding and
responding to consumers who seek online opinion. Electronic WOM has enabled
a shift in communication control via customer-to-customer interaction that
managers should embrace and facilitate rather than fear. Marketers should target
customers with particular reading motivations in order to positively influence and
encourage them to read about their products. They should work with COP
providers and consumers to ensure that they are sufficiently transparent about
the issues consumers want to discuss, in order to enable and encourage positive
debate. The qualitative approach and context specific nature of the research
would suggest that the motives identified might not be exhaustive for all websites
or indeed all COPs; however, the seven themes identified provide a conceptual
framework that could be used to search for and identify reading motivations for
users of other COPs and potentially other online content.
The authors wish to thank Professors Sandeep Krishnamurthy, Mike
Solomon, Peter McGoldrick and Phil Stern, Mr. Ray Poynter from Virtual
Surveys, attendees at a BAM workshop and the CRIS ideas development
forum and 2 anonymous reviewers for their helpful and insightful comments.
The authors thank the management team of for helping to
organise the data sets used in this research, for granting access to their
members and for co-funding the research. They acknowledge the efforts of
Richard Thornton, Katherine Allan, Tom Meyritz and Viviane Szackamer for
their support of this research project.
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Demographics of respondents
Throughout this paper, quoted responses are attributed to changed
respondent names to protect anonymity. The table below illustrates respondents’
demographic characteristics. Just over two-thirds of participants in the qualitative
phase of the research project were females. This ratio reflects changes in the
demographic make-up of UK Internet users as a whole, with Nielsen Online
reporting in 2007 that 18-34 year old women are now the largest demographic
group, accounting for 18% of British people active online (Burmaster, 2007).
Almost one third of the members were aged between 20 and 29 while another
third were aged between 30 and 39. Less than a sixth (4) of the respondents
were educated to ‘A’-level only. Over a quarter (7) of participants, hold a
vocational degree. Ten of the twenty-five participants hold an undergraduate
degree, whilst four had been educated to postgraduate level. The relatively high
frequency of degree educated respondents in the sample matches the situation
in the population as a whole as indicated by the U.K. National Statistics Online
reporting that "Adults under 70 years of age who had a degree or equivalent
qualification were most likely to have access to the Internet in their home, at 93
per cent.” (
Table A1: Demographics of respondents
University Degree
Vocational Degree
Vocational Degree
Vocational Degree
University Degree
Vocational Degree
University Degree
University Degree
Vocational Degree
University Degree
Vocational Degree
University Degree
University Degree
University Degree
University Degree
University Degree
Vocational Degree
The story request opened with the introduction: “At Ciao we are always trying to
better-understand our members. Therefore, we are conducting some
independent research into your experiences of reading and writing reviews on carried out by researchers from Manchester Business School. We
want you to send us your stories of using Ciao.”
Story Request Format:
“Please describe what influences and motivates you to read product reviews on and share your experiences with us. We are interested in every detail
of how and why you use Please tell us your Ciao story! Please try to
maintain a minimum length of 400 words.”
APPENDIX 3: Motive and behavioural frequency
In order to tentatively establish comparative influence of the different
motivations and relative combinational frequencies brief demographics were
assimilated with motives. The themes of decision- and social-involvement were
identified for 24 respondents each; the theme of product involvement was
identified by 20 respondents; consumer empowerment by 19; self-involvement by
17; economic involvement by 16 and site involvement by just 6.
The motives of “risk reduction” and belonging to a virtual community”
(Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003) were identified by the most people. The
emergent motive “trusted product opinion” was coded by over half of
respondents. A little over half of the sample (14) was motivated by the emergent
motive self-indulgence, similar to Tauber’s (1972, p.48) shopping motives of
“diversion” and “self-gratification”, “Average/non-expert product opinion”, “self-
improvement” and “preferred authors” were all identified in the case of over a
third of respondents. The social involvement motives of “encouraging reciprocal
reading”, “understanding people” and “mediated advisor” were the most
tentatively identified motives being mentioned by the least respondents (Table
A2). Table A3 shows an interaction analysis of motives, which indicates that most
respondents experienced a range of motives and that the motives are
complimentary, with all but the four least frequently identified motives being
experienced alongside all other motives (across all respondents).
(Insert Table A2 about here)
Table A2: Motive segmentation
No. of
Risk reduction
6M 17F
Belonging to a virtual
7M 16F
To learn what
products are new in
the market-place
5M 12F
4M 12F
4M 10F
Dissonance reduction
4M 10F
Trusted product
4M 9F
4M 8F
Preferred authors
3M 7F
Reduction of search
3M 7F
Average /non expert
product opinion
1M 8F
To learn how a
product is to be
4M 5F
Determination of
social position
1M 7F
1M 5F
Unique product
3M 1F
Encourage reciprocal
Understanding people
Mediated advisor
The product involvement motive; to learn how a product is to be
consumed” (Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003, p.58) and the consumer
empowerment motive “unique product experience” were identified by a relatively
high proportion of the eight male respondents in the sample compared to female
respondents (4:5 and 3:1 respectively) suggesting that men might be particularly
interested in reading about product specific information. Managers could facilitate
the availability of this information on consumer opinion-portals. In contrast, the
motive of reading “average/ non-expert product opinion” was cited by 1 male and
8 females, suggesting that women may be more interested in learning from fellow
consumers. Being involved with the site and playing an administrative role
through reading, was a motive for just one male and five females, further
research could examine whether administrative role playing is a more attractive
reading motive for female site users. The motives attributed to the most
respondents; “belonging to a virtual community” and “risk reduction” (Hennig-
Thurau and Walsh, 2003, p.58); were also identified by a relatively high
proportion of men (7 and 6 respectively) suggesting that these relational and
informational modes of interaction are not gender specific.
Seven of ten respondents motivated to read “preferred authors” were
educated to at least undergraduate level, suggesting a need for further research
into whether increasing education level leads to increased propensity to prefer
particular individuals’ reviews. “Determination of social position” (Hennig-Thurau
and Walsh, 2003, p.58) was coded for 8 respondents, 7 of whom were female
and 6 educated to university degree level, suggesting that gauging social position
might be a greater reading motivator for (educated) women. “Remuneration”
(Hennig-Thurau and Walsh, 2003, p.58) was noted as a potential reading
incentive by all bar one respondent under 29 and only one above 39, suggesting
a rewarded reading response might be triggered more easily for younger
Table A3: Interaction analysis of motives
(number of
identifying the
A. Risk
reduction (23)
B. Belonging to
a virtual
C. To learn
what products
are new in the
E. Self-
F. Dissonance
reduction (14)
G. Trusted
opinion (13)
H. Self-
I. Preferred
authors (10)
J. Reduction of
search time
K. Average
/non expert
opinion (9)
L. To learn
how a product
is to be
consumed (9)
of social
position (8)
motives (6)
O. Unique
experience (4)
P. Encourage
reading (2)
people (1)
R. Mediated
advisor (1)
Table A4*: Examples of Additional Behaviours, Themes and Motives
Decision Involvement (Theme)
Risk Reduction (Motive) Respondent:
Interpreting reviews with care (Behaviour): “Generally I find reviews help
me, but there is room for being mislead based on not everyone being the
same. For things that depend on interests and taste, for example music, I
tend to only research from people who I know share similar tastes as I
Adele, Female, Age
<20, Education level:
Interpreting reviews with care: “read(ing) as many reviews as I could find
about the product to get a good cross-section of opinion”
Helga, F, >50, P.
Reduction of Search Time
Reading reviews pre-purchase: “It cuts down my shopping time by at least
3/4 as I have usually made my choice before I purchase the item. There
are times I can go armed with all the information on say a new television
and may just want to confirm the features I have read about in reviews,”
Fiona, F, 40-49, VD.
Reading reviews pre-purchase “It cuts down on a lot of leg work or surfing
Aaron, M, 30-39, UD.
Dissonance reduction
Reading Reviews post-purchase: “When I read about the product
afterwards and then one of the reviews praises the product I’ve
purchased, it gives me a great reassuring feeling that I have made the
right choice. Everyone likes to be agreed with and this then gives me
confidence in purchasing future products.”
Steve, M, 20-29, VD.
Reading Reviews post-purchase: “I also do it sometimes if I buy on
impulse, and when I get home I look to see if the product has had positive
Lynne, F, 30-39, UD.
Product Involvement
To learn how a product is to be consumed
Reading reviews: “If it (a product related problem) is minor I will search for
reviews by users and see whether they have had similar problems and
whether they knew how to fix it.”
Steve, M, 20-29, VD.
Reading reviews: “I'll sometimes look at other reviews reporting problems
with the product.”
Adele, F, <20, A.
To learn what products are new in the market place
Reading Reviews: “I try and keep myself up-to-date, and to find out if
something can help make me more efficient, or make life a bit easier or
more enjoyable,”
Trevor, M, >50, UD.
Reading Reviews: “I do read them when I see a new product advertised. I
then go on Ciao … especially if I don’t know a lot about the product.”
Gemma, F, 20-29, A.
Economic Involvement
Reading Reviews: “It would encourage me, but it depends on what type of
Priya, F, 20-29, UD.
Reading Reviews: “I joined Ciao for the financial side but stay a member
for the community aspect.”
Lynne, F, 30-39, UD.
Consumer Empowerment
Trusted product opinion
Reading reviews by particular individuals: “I would not trust them 100%
but if I read a lot of their reviews and they seem genuine and
knowledgeable I do tend to put some degree of trust in them. I would not
trust someone after reading one review for instance. After I had read a
few of their reviews, thought them plausible and they had good feedback
from others as well, that’s when I tend to trust their opinions,”
Michelle, F, 30-39,
Average/non-expert product opinion
Reading Reviews: “I read the reviews because I think it is an invaluable
resource to gain someone’s opinion like yourself rather than listen to or
read the marketing ploys of the companies trying to sell their products to
the consumers.”
Gina, F, 20-29, UD.
Unique product experience
Reading Reviews: It is invaluable getting to know about other peoples’
experiences of things. You can’t find that anywhere else,”
Priya, F, 20-29, UD.
Self Improvement
Reading Reviews: “I generally read other reviews out of interest or
curiosity. If I hear about a product I’ll often look it up, out of curiosity, even
if I’m not really intending to buy it.”
Julia, F, 30-39, UD.
Reading Reviews: I do read and compare to see the quality of writing
and to make sure you don’t just repeat what others already say. I think it
helps improve your own writing by reading others. I think it is always
interesting to read different points of view. It makes you question things
more and makes you look at different angles,”
Priya, F, 20-29, UD.
Self Indulgence
Reading Reviews: Well I know where I head to when I feel grey, yep,
over to Ciao, gosh- where do I go to when I feel a little down? (Well,
hopefully not the pub) but seriously Ciao can be and is a breath of fresh
Kevin, M, 40-49, VD.
Reading Reviews: “Reading reviews has become one of those things! It
has really become a habit, I suppose because it is constantly changing,
the numbers are ticking over, and there is feedback and all sorts of other
things. It has become part of every day life for me.”
Julia, F, 30-39, UD.
Social Involvement
Determination of Social Position
Reading Reviews: “Yes, just to see if they tally. I wrote a review on a
bubble machine I bought for my son in the summer. I liked it, he liked it
and the other reviewer was also a fan of it. Sometimes you want to see if
someone else liked what you liked.”
Gary, M, 30-39, VD.
Belonging to a virtual community
Reading Reviews: The only (product related) community I'd say I feel
close in is the Ciao community.”
Helena, F, 20-29,
Preferred authors
Reading reviews by particular individuals: “In the case of Ciao, I’ll read
Julia, F, 30-39, UD.
reviews written by authors I like, irrespective of the subject matter.”
Mediated advisor
Reading Reviews and informing 3rd parties: “Sometimes I read customer
reviews for friends/family, on the occasions they ask me to find one on a
certain item they have interest in. They don't have access to the internet
some are in too much of a rush to read themselves … thus, I feel
trusted to find accurate advice for them.”
Ben, M, <20, A.
Understanding people
Reading Reviews: “The fun side of it the…revelation of people's
characters and views.”
“When folk write about products and their use etc. they actually reveal a
fair bit about their expectations in life, etc.”
Trevor, M, >50, UD.
Encourage reciprocal reading
Reading reviews by particular individuals: “I need to be responsive and
cooperative by reading and rating theirs…that way I can guarantee that
they will get back!"
Trevor, M, >50, UD.
Site Involvement
Administrative motives
Examining review accuracy and availability: “I may go and read a review
and then if I didn't agree with what was written then I would probably go
and write my own review. Even if I did agree with what was written I would
probably write my own review anyway, others may have not read the other
Fiona, F, 40-49, VD.
* (Format of table 4 developed from McGoldrick, Keeling and Beatty, 2008, Appendix 3, p.457).
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