Are Those Reviews Coming From a Trusted Source?

Today’s New York Times has an article on hotel and restaurant reviews. They mostly talk about TripAdvisor and IgoUgo (which I had never heard of until today) and compare them to Zagat. Most of the information in there has been thoroughly discussed before (user reviews vs. editor reviews, moderated vs. un-moderated comments) but one quote from Tim Zagat (Zagat’s co-founder) really stood out for me. Talking about consumer reviews, he said:

“Some Internet companies are running into the problem that anybody can throw up things on the wall, and after a while there are just too many people doing it.”

TripAdvisor hotel Arts Review Barcelona

What it means: Tim Zagat is onto something. He doesn’t express it that way but it’s all about reviews from “trusted sources”. A trusted source could be, for example, a pro reviewer/critic (aggregated in sites like Metacritic.com), a friend or someone from an affinity group (or trusted community). Some of the travel and review sites out there suffer from a lack of “trusted sources” and it’s the reason why we often feel like there’s too much information to process when we see hundreds of reviews for a hotel or restaurant. Why would I trust travelingmom526 or baroudeur2004? If they’re not direct contacts, how do I know if they have the same taste as me?