If You Give Me Something, Do I Have to Say Nice Stuff About It?
An article on Engadget Mobile regarding how Sprint basically wanted free marketing out of its Ambassador program points to a conundrum for us bloggers who are given free stuff with the intent of writing about it. Here's the problem in a nutshell: the companies want buzz. One "cheap" way to get it is to give products and services to people who are interested in said products and services and are willing to write about them. The hope is that these people will like them and write nice things about them so that when others are using Google to do their product research, they find a lot of good reviews from independent users.
However, the other edge of that sword is that the product or service is crap. And if it's really bad, well let's just say if you're the company, you don't want to read the scathing commentary. Some companies hate it so much that they cut people off the gravy train if they say bad things (or nothing). Between the fear of being "cut off" and just general human nature to want to be nice to someone who gave you stuff, reviews under these circumstances have the potential to be skewed positive.
The smart companies are taking all the feedback, both good and bad, and are willing to work with the negative reviewers to isolate the areas where the product needs improvement. Certainly I've seen this with companies like SightSpeed, and clearly Sprint is not one of these companies.