There's no shortage of iPhone app review websites out there, and plenty of them are pretty desperately in need of a cash inflow. On the other hand, there's no shortage of iPhone apps out there, and application developers need attention to be spent on their apps in order to recuperate their costs.
Unfortunately, when these two things mix, it's a recipe for corruption.
According to Wired magazine, several iPhone app review websites are demanding bribes from app developers in exchange for reviewing their applications, a practice which is illegal in other industries but not on blogs or websites.
According to Wired, the two websites whose names were mentioned most often were The iPhone App Review and App Craver, both of which show up in Google's top ten hits for "iPhone app review."
Wired was provided with an email from The iPhone App Review by independent iPhone app developer Michael D'Ulisse, showing that an editor at that websites told D'Ulisse that his product would not be reviewed by them unless he paid out $25.
"I would be interested in writing a review and having it on our website theiphoneappreview.com. We do charge a $25 fee for reviews (this is used to compensate our authors), so the decision is yours. If you want a review written, but have no promo codes left, I can purchase the app and add the price of the app into your invoice. Let me know either way. Thanks!"
When confronted by Wired reporters about the policy, the Iphone App Review editor-in-chief Shaun Campbell said he wasn't aware of any such policies, saying that the site's reviewers work on their own, autonomously, so he's not certain about whether or not they're paid by app creators. According to the iPhone App Review's "About" page, fees only apply to expedited app reviews.
Campbell did whine about the cost of running his website, however, saying "The iPhone App Review is not a PR charity...We’re a business, and like in any business, there are costs that need to be recovered.” Apparently the affiliate links that his blog sends off to Apple, where they earn 5% of every sale that's made through their reviews, isn't enough income for him.
In October of 2009, the Federal Trade Commission published revised guidelines governing endorsements for bloggers, which, among other things, require bloggers to give reads a full disclosure whenever they write a review in exchange for money or gifts.
The iPhone App Review is not providing any disclosure about which reviews require bribes and which don't.