Tech Companies Pay CNET To Repost Positive Reviews

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Steve Kovach/Business Insider

A new CNET advertising product seeks to monetize its popular consumer technology reviews, in the media industry’s latest foray into native advertising.

CNET Replay, first reported by Digiday’s Brian Morrissey, allows technology companies like Samsung and Microsoft to pay CNET to repost on its homepage a positive review CNET has written previously about one of its products.  

The old review then appears on the CNET homepage in a shaded highlight box between other editorial content. The link is presented alongside a blurb from the review and a small orange banner labeled “CNET REPLAY,” seen here as displayed on CNET's cell phones page:

CNET Replay screenshot



Only after users click on the link, assuming they don’t just read the blurb and move on, is it stated that an advertiser paid CNET to promote it again on the homepage. Even then, Samsung is not explicitly named as the party that paid for the story to be re-shared, and the language used is a bit convoluted.

CNET Replay disclaimer


Though a reader scrolling through the site could fail to realize that the link was paid for by an advertiser, CBS Interactive, CNET’s parent company, said the text inside Replay homepage blurbs is identical to what accompanies the stories when they are originally published. 

“I think it’s ethically dubious,” said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism school that tracks industry trends and best practices. “I know sponsored content and native advertising is all the rage, and my own view is that it’s okay as long as it’s clearly labeled as advertising. I think CNET Replay flunks that test.”