How Many Reviews Are Too Many?

| Does the 3,250th review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows have any influence on an Amazon customer? An Economist article says it does. In fact, says the article, the more online reviews a product has, the more likely people are to buy it. If reviewers know the reviews they write have influence, it may help answer Levitt’s earlier question: Why do so many people post reviews on Amazon? So what motivates blog readers, whose comments often number in the 100’s on this blog? One Freakonomics reader, Conor Lennon, recently emailed to say that he rarely bothers posting a comment unless he knows it will show up on the first page of comments (there are only 25 comments per page). He wonders if other commenters on this blog feel the same. [%comments]

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  1. C. Larity says:


    What was the question?

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  2. Quin says:

    Yes we do.

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  3. Ben says:

    Generally, I only comment if the topic is of real interest to me and if I feel I have something to add that could further the discussion.

    Being on the first page helps ensure that my opinion will become part of the dialogue, but I’m okay with the second. From the third page on, returns seem to diminish.

    Also: First page!

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  4. mkl says:

    I think 17th is the one that goes over the bar of too many.

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  5. Bucky says:

    I agree with Conor Lennon. At a certain point, nobody is going to read your comment, so it’s not worth the effort. The person who posts comment #387 in a thread (I usually stop reading after the first 20 or so) may really want to get something off their chest and have no other way to do it, but to me, it seems kinda pointless. You could have the absolute definitive comment on an issue, but once it’s buried that deep, you may as well just keep it to yourself . . .

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  6. Fred T. says:

    Oftentimes, I judge a product at Amazon based on how many reviews it has.

    For instance, if a product has 10 reviews and a 4.5 rating, I’m not as inclined to buy it compared to a competing product with 500 reviews and a 4.0 rating. And a product with 5,000 reviews and a 4.0 rating is likely going to get my attention more than the 500 review product.

    Basically, the more reviews there are, the more the product has been vetted and the more likely the rating (and comments) are reflective of the actual product and not just what the zealots have to say.

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  7. Lorenz says:

    well, if it shows up on the first page or now, the main incentive is often the discussion that involves around the comments imho

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  8. Michael Bishop says:

    The article did not say that the 3,250th review would increase sales. Even if their was an association between reviews and sales at these high numbers, the causation probably runs more the other direction. The article did find causality when the number of reviews is small.

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