Payola hits iPhone app review market?

Start-up app review websites need money to sustain themselves, and independent app developers need exposure. What happens when those two things mix?

Similar to the Payola radio scandal where artists paid radio stations to get their music on the air, at least one iPhone app review site is now requesting payment from the app developers to have their products reviewed.

Independent app creator Michael D’Ulisse provided Wired with an e-mail from where an editor told him his product would not be reviewed unless he paid $25.

The site’s editor, Sarah Parker, sought out D’Ulisse and wrote, “I would be interested in writing a review and having it on our website ( 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!”

In the radio industry, this kind of practice is illegal. In this scenario, it merely brings up ethical questions.

In the Wired story, D’Ulisse said, “What happened to journalistic integrity?” The review site’s editor-in-chief Shaun Campbell told Wired he was unaware of such practices, saying, “that is not our policy.”

Every Web site that’s dedicated to product reviews gets surrounded by critics that assume the product makers can pay for higher review scores. In a situation like this where it is blatantly and transparently happening, it threatens the integrity of the entire industry.