LG caught red-handed trying to buy favorable coverage from Hardware Unboxed

Julio Franco

Posts: 8,788   +1,689
Staff member
Facepalm: Today, Tim Schiesser, hardware reviewer at Hardware Unboxed and long-time TechSpot collaborator posted a new video of the kind he doesn't want to make. As you are likely aware, Tim knows monitors, having reviewed dozens in the past few years, many of which have been for LG monitors, which are also some of the best in the business. So, then, how did this happen?

Unfortunately in a recent incident, LG representatives tried to manipulate the editorial direction of Hardware Unboxed and went so far as hinting to pay for the privilege. The sole attempt to exert that sort of control during the review process is totally unacceptable, which is why Tim is calling them out publicly.

You might remember the previous time that a company tried to control what was said in reviews. It wasn't that long ago, when Nvidia threatened to withhold graphics card review samples unless we talked about certain features that favored them. Luckily they backtracked and recognized their mistake -- even more so when it's mostly positive coverage that has gone to Nvidia products when they truly deserved the recognition. But we stand by our readers and viewers first and always.

As Tim explains in the video, what LG were attempting to do is much worse, as they tried to outline specifically how monitors should be reviewed (or how they should not be tested) and even offered compensation for doing so. Hardware Unboxed have of course refused their demands, and instead choose to expose their dirty tactics. Let's hope this kind of manipulation and bad practice is entirely removed and promptly corrected by a company that doesn't need this at all when their products can talk for themselves.

Update: Less than 24 hours later, a happy resolution. Good job guys!

Permalink to story.

 

nismo91

Posts: 1,126   +165
Honestly at this point, the more reviews there are, the more doubtful I am. especially when it comes to non-quantitative reviews such as picture or sound quality.

smartphone camera reviews are the perfect example. I'm the type of person that knows exactly I want, so let's browse youtube and look at 10 reviews. I must've found what I was looking for right? big NOPE cause it's mostly fanboyism or paid article.

or... something like Samsung S10e where the front camera of the Snapdragon unit is a completely different sensor from the Exynos variant. almost bought that phone if it wasn't for a small channel that reveals that dirty secret.

or maybe something worse like DXOmark.

 

MrPhoenix

Posts: 8   +9
THE BEST that can come of this is that these big corporations STOP giving products to BIG YOUTUBERS and instead give products to SMALLER youtubbers who will appreciate them more.
Hmm, Not sure what you mean here. I don't think the HardwareUnboxed review has anything to do with appreciation. Tech reviewers are mean't to do a completely unbiased review of product. Im sure they are plenty appreciative of the position they are in to be able to review product. I don't see that being relevant in this case.
 

texasrattler

Posts: 1,171   +555
Hmm, Not sure what you mean here. I don't think the HardwareUnboxed review has anything to do with appreciation. Tech reviewers are mean't to do a completely unbiased review of product. Im sure they are plenty appreciative of the position they are in to be able to review product. I don't see that being relevant in this case.
I think he meant in general not specifically Hardware Unboxed. Big/popular streamers get companies coming to them because they can reach a big audience. Being paid is a big part of the streamer life style. While Hardware Unboxed are reputable, not everyone that reviews product are. It's a ugly side of the business but it does happen. Also it's not just about money or its not always money that is used to get a favorable review.

Would a smaller streamer just be happy that a company came to them n just review the product favorably or would a company try to pay for a favorable review. Likely the former.

LG being who they are, this isn't needed so now begs the question was this about the company or just a employee trying to look good to his boss. The complications of business, when to do or not do something. Businesses walk a thin line of morality. Nothing is really off limits, until you get caught.
 

fps4ever

Posts: 683   +906
Hmm, Not sure what you mean here. I don't think the HardwareUnboxed review has anything to do with appreciation. Tech reviewers are mean't to do a completely unbiased review of product. Im sure they are plenty appreciative of the position they are in to be able to review product. I don't see that being relevant in this case.

If you are doing it the way LG insists then its a paid advertisement not a review. Not sure where his disconnect is.
 

m4a4

Posts: 2,425   +2,756
TechSpot Elite
THE BEST that can come of this is that these big corporations STOP giving products to BIG YOUTUBERS and instead give products to SMALLER youtubbers who will appreciate them more.
The small youtubers that either write a biased review or don't get the products (because they're easier to push around)? The ones with small reaches (less reach per dollar)?

Sure, it would be nice of them, but they don't give away review products because they want them to be appreciated afterwards. It's purely PR. It's not realistic and a bit naïve to even suggest that's how ALL tech reviews should work.

If anything, Hardware Unboxed became this big because they write trustworthy reviews (or so I will assume), and doesn't come across as someone who can get paid off...
 

Fobus

Posts: 125   +102
THE BEST that can come of this is that these big corporations STOP giving products to BIG YOUTUBERS and instead give products to SMALLER youtubbers who will appreciate them more.

What a convoluted comment. It is the big channels that have the ability to stand up to these shady tactics. Small youtubers have no choice but to rely on the good graces of these companies, because just getting stuff is costly. Hence are far more likely to accept bribes.
 

Austinturner

Posts: 224   +238
THE BEST that can come of this is that these big corporations STOP giving products to BIG YOUTUBERS and instead give products to SMALLER youtubbers who will appreciate them more.
That sounds a lot like “big corporations should not give their products to reputable reviewers like HUB and instead give their review samples to smaller reviewers who will appreciate that by giving favourable reviews and not pointing out the product’s flaws”
If that is the case, I would ask “are you out of your mind”?
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 713   +1,268
I'm glad Tim does the right thing and not only declined but called them out publicly.

The problem is that I am almost sure that if we sample another 10 "youtube influencers" about it randomly, at least 8 of them would take the offer and the 2 that might decline are so small that they probably won't dare to publicly denounce a corporation as big as LG anyway: if someone is honestly just like a 10 to 50k subscriber small tech channel they just cannot afford to be left out of review samples or worst, get blacklisted.

And before you go "Well that's why you should only trust X" I think you should consider how that in and of itself is also a problem: As much as we know Hardware Unboxed or Gamers Nexus are trusted brands, simple math would tell you it's impossible for them to cover all products. Even most products. They even have expressed problems covering the very top-of-the-line and long awaited hardware launches.

So if you're not in the market for a 1000+ monitor for example? Yeah you'll be getting one of those 8 out of 10 guys that take the money. This isn't a substitute for free and independent press and that's an issue nobody is tackling right now which is these companies need strict regulation to put a stop to these practices, otherwise well they just wont stop.
 

envirovore

Posts: 214   +482
TechSpot Elite
HUB (and GN) FTW!

I'd say I'm amazed they tried this after calling nVidia out on the same B.S.
But then I remembered that Marketing is involved, and, well...paging Bill Hicks to LG's Marketing Dept.
 

BigMeatyClackers

Posts: 10   +8
THE BEST that can come of this is that these big corporations STOP giving products to BIG YOUTUBERS and instead give products to SMALLER youtubbers who will appreciate them more.
I don't really trust anyone trying to be a content creator or upload yt videos as their profession...big or small. I'd rather hear from a regular person that had time to share unscripted thoughts about it.
 
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Austinturner

Posts: 224   +238
I don't really trust anyone trying to be a content creator or upload yt videos as their profession...big or small. I'd rather hear from a regular person that had time to share unscripted thoughts about it.
I think people like HUB and GN provide a really valuable service because of their standardised testing of a range of products. I can see accurately the benefit between different things I could buy and even compared to what I currently have. A regular person doesn’t have the time and hardware to do that. It is actually their business model to be reputable so I do trust them.
 
+1 for Manufacturer Manipulation Transparency! Did I just create a new acronym?

Anyway, am now a subscriber. I look forward to following more of your articles, Thank You!
 

Eldritch

Posts: 324   +500
THE BEST that can come of this is that these big corporations STOP giving products to BIG YOUTUBERS and instead give products to SMALLER youtubbers who will appreciate them more.

How on the earth could you suggest that paid reviews, which are basically manipulation by lying to people who depose their trust on the youtubers/sites is OK? And somehow the youtubers/sites who don't get sold out aren't 'appreciative' of manipulators? Damn....

No disrespect but at this point I am sure that you are just trolling the forums here.
 

Eldritch

Posts: 324   +500
What makes you say that?
Just recently we saw that Linus called $600 3070 TI with 8 GB RAM in 2021 an 'absolute bargain'. Do note that it won't be available for less than $700-800 even in US and around $800-1000 in other countries. Considering the minor increase in performance but large increase in power draw and price calling it an absolute bargain was an absolute disgrace.

That being said, it got sold out in seconds. But so did 3090 so there's that.
 

ypsylon

Posts: 366   +286
Not to take anything from HUB or GN. They doing important job as a whole.

However I'm less inclined to buy something after first review. Zero Day Reviews provide only glimpse. Of course there are obvious botched products in itself to look only at 3080TiE-Interceptor and 3070TiE-Fighter. :p I was a bit worried when I got my 3090 that perhaps I shoot myself in the foot, but even at very irrational price it's magnificent product. It tears renders like they are not there. Much better value that nearly same $ worth 3080TiE.


I respect channels which do some serious work with product in question and publish in-depth analysis like 3-6 months later. It's not about the views, it's about substance for me. Double respect for actually purchasing product not getting a review sample - which takes away "the extortion factor".

LG behaved like bottomless [put here something colorful]. Considering they are biggest panel maker in the world and offer some of the magnificent displays you can buy, to pull something like this you have to be completely brainless. Well done HUB.
 

Fobus

Posts: 125   +102
I don't really trust anyone trying to be a content creator or upload yt videos as their profession...big or small. I'd rather hear from a regular person that had time to share unscripted thoughts about it.
What makes you think regular people are any better at it? For one, that's such small sample. Youtubers gather info from far wider sources than just a singular experience. Second, how can you know their biases? If you follow a particular reviewer, you come to what they like and dislike, and hence can form a pretty good judgment. For some rando - not so much. Was he having a bad day? Got unlucky with his piece of tech? Is a fanboy of some particular company or gimmick or feature? Is wildly misinformed, hence impressed with this product? Is really rich/poor, etc, which warps his opinion on the value? And so on and on.
Third, what about time, investment and methodology? A regular person won't just have put the time to make his review repeatable, comprehensive, with needed disclosures etc.
And finally, you don't think they already astroturf regular person review campaigns? How many fake reviews on Amazon are there from supposed regular people?
I don't really get this poo-pooing on the professional. Regular person is way overrated.
 

Fobus

Posts: 125   +102
Not to take anything from HUB or GN. They doing important job as a whole.

However I'm less inclined to buy something after first review. Zero Day Reviews provide only glimpse. Of course there are obvious botched products in itself to look only at 3080TiE-Interceptor and 3070TiE-Fighter. :p I was a bit worried when I got my 3090 that perhaps I shoot myself in the foot, but even at very irrational price it's magnificent product. It tears renders like they are not there. Much better value that nearly same $ worth 3080TiE.


I respect channels which do some serious work with product in question and publish in-depth analysis like 3-6 months later. It's not about the views, it's about substance for me. Double respect for actually purchasing product not getting a review sample - which takes away "the extortion factor".

LG behaved like bottomless [put here something colorful]. Considering they are biggest panel maker in the world and offer some of the magnificent displays you can buy, to pull something like this you have to be completely brainless. Well done HUB.
These corporations have departments or even whole subsidiaries that are quite isolated from each other. One company makes LG panels, the other company assembles them into a monitor, while PR work is outsourced. I think it's modern management system that's ****ed up, not LG in particular.
 

Watzupken

Posts: 246   +227
It seems that LG have so little confidence in their product that they have to resort to this. The marketing team certainly did a big disfavour to their R&D team by resorting to underhand means to try and upsell the product. After this issue, I will certainly take note of any glaringly good review of LG products. If it sounds too good, then its too good to be true indeed.

At this point, I feel sad for the marketing analyst as well as those copied on the emails because I feel they are certainly going to get into trouble. It is incredibly foolish to resort to such underhand tactics and still put them in writing for all to see. It is like writing on email to a customs officer that they will be passing the custom with drugs in hand today, so please don't report me and I will pay you. Its 50/50 that someone will call you out.
 

Austinturner

Posts: 224   +238
At this point, I feel sad for the marketing analyst as well as those copied on the emails because I feel they are certainly going to get into trouble. It is incredibly foolish to resort to such underhand tactics and still put them in writing for all to see. It is like writing on email to a customs officer that they will be passing the custom with drugs in hand today, so please don't report me and I will pay you. Its 50/50 that someone will call you out.
My guess based on the things they wrote is that this team had no prior experience working with third party reviewers/ media. I’m guessing they usually work on advertising and paid promotions where they have NDAs in place and believe that the person they are talking to is performing a service for them. This is definitely a management screw up.
 

Nobina

Posts: 3,142   +3,040
Expect this to happen once in a while. The act of sending free stuff to the reviewer alone tells them "be careful about what you say about us and our product", even if the reviewer claims to be unbiased it can have a slight impact on his verdict cause nobody wants to lose the privilage of getting free expensive items ahead of the release.

The simplest way to avoid this is not to accept any favours from companies. That is obviously gonna tank your platform as you won't have the item before it's release and you'll have to spend your own money to get it, but it's up to you what you're gonna do.