The Trust List: TV Edition 2024

Gadget Review’s investigation and ongoing research exposes how untrustworthy most online TV reviews are.

Updated: May 7, 2024 11:20 AM

TABLE OF CONTENTS

KEY FINDINGS_

  • 88.29%, or 181 of the 205 TV reviewers we analyzed earned a failing Trust Rating under 60%, meaning they don’t test TVs and
  • 98 of the 205 TV reviewers (47.80%) publish fake reviews.
  • Big Media reviewers are gaming the system and being ranked on page 1 of Google more than independent TV reviewers.
    • Only 34 out of 119 (28.57%) TV reviewers on page 1 of the TV keywords we searched on Google are independently-owned.
    • The remaining 85 reviewers (73.81%) belong to parent companies.
  • The average Trust Rating of all 205 TV reviewers is 27.59%.

What Is The Problem With Product Reviews?

Imagine you’re shopping for a brand new TV. You’ll probably do some initial research on Google and read a TV review or two, right? In reality, 6.1 million TV review-related Google searches occur every month.

This enormous demand for online TV reviews has transformed the industry into a lucrative business, generating over $6 million in gross profit annually. Such high profits have also fostered greed, leading to a mass of fake reviews.

While there are some rigorously tested TV reviews, many are lost in the sea of fake and misleading content on Google’s search results pages.

This is our long-term investigation into TVs and is part of our broader examination of consumer tech fake reviews ranked by Google.  The world’s biggest search engine is serving up misleading reviews, published by Big Media companies like CNN, Forbes, and Rolling Stone. These Big Media companies writing TV reviews are very popular and their TV content receive millions of visitors every month, but we’ve discovered that many are faking their reviews.

parent company monthly tv traffic
We determined the total TV traffic that the most popular parent companies earn. (Source: Ahrefs)

So, how widespread is this issue of fake reviews, why are Big Media outlets like Rolling Stone and Forbes writing these fake reviews, and how does this affect you?

How Widespread Is The Fake Review Problem?

After 155 hours of research, so far we’ve uncovered that 88% (181 out of 205) of the most popular TV reviewers DON’T test, and almost one-third of Google’s TV search results are fake reviews.

Apply that one-third to the millions of TV searches every month, and that means on page 1 of Google, users encounter approximately 20.3 million fake reviews every month (243.6 million fake reviews per year).

As people advocates, Gadget Review is on a mission to give people the truth about a system filled with fake reviews, skewed ratings, and deceptive online practices to restore trust in journalism.

By exposing these tactics, we equip you with the knowledge to make smarter purchases, saving you time and money.

Why Are There So Many Fake Reviews?

The TV industry has $7 billion in annual sales globally. From our internal numbers, the online TV review industry (for affiliates) boasts an annual gross profit of $6,806,142.

The allure of such high profits creates an environment susceptible to greedy behavior. Some reviewers take shortcuts that require little effort yet still rake in the dough, which are usually in the form of misleading, unreliable reviews. These fraudulent reviews can misinform consumers into wasting money and time on a total dud of a TV.

And why is Big Media a huge contributor to this problem? Large media conglomerates are abusing their authority to game Google and rank high in the search results with these low-effort TV reviews. We discovered that Google tends to rank parent companies’ sites higher than most other trustworthy, independent sites, even if the Big Media TV review is as fake as fake gets. Their ad models have evolved into a corrupted form of affiliate marketing.

While affiliate marketing in itself is not inherently unethical, publications and blogs cross the line when they compromise the integrity of their reviews and guides in exchange for higher profits.

DISCLAIMER: We’re not out to cancel anybody or tear anybody down. Our goal is to give people the truth about this huge fake review problem and restore trust in journalism as a result. While we email all reviewers we’ve analyzed, we’ve asked the failing reviewers who claim to test to either provide any missing testing evidence or to change their wording to “researched” instead of “tested”.

We analyzed our older untested reviews and realized our “tested” phrasing was problematic, so last summer, we changed all testing mentions on those reviews to “researched”.

We’ll provide another update soon about who responded to our emails and how they responded.

Gadget Review’s Investigation_

Gadget Review has gathered test data on almost 1,000 products in over a dozen categories including TVs, and now we’re testing the testers. We’ve been researching how trustworthy TV reviewers are since 2021, calculating Trust Ratings for 205 reviewers in total.

We developed our proprietary Trust Rating system to classify trustworthy, untrustworthy, and fake TV reviewers. Calculating a Trust Rating is a hands-on approach since we have real people research each publication and fill out 70 indicators to gauge how they practice transparency and thorough, proven TV testing.

You can learn more about how we test the testers and some of the indicators we use.

The final Trust Rating of a site is a weighted calculation. If a site reviews multiple categories, they’ll receive a Trust Rating for each category:

  • 20% of the Trust Rating is the General Score. It’s based on how transparent the site is in general along with how in-depth their scoring system is. It’s scored only once.
  • The other 80% is the Category Score. This is determined by how in-depth the testing is on their reviews. Each category receives their own custom questions looking for important Test Criteria applicable to the category, such as brightness for TVs. We explain our process to determine important TV Test Criteria in our TV Testing Methodology.

Overall TV Key Findings_

We found that 47.80% of the 205 reviewers are fake reviewers, and only 11.71% of the 205 reviewers are either Highly Trusted or Trusted Reviewers. The rest (83 of the 205 reviewers so 40.49%) do not claim to test but are still untrustworthy.

The landscape of online TV reviewers looks rather grim with a 27.59% average Trust Rating of all 205 reviewers. Here’s a table of all our overall findings:

GROUP# OF REVIEWERSPERCENTAGE
Highly Trusted Reviewers (Trust Rating: 90 – 100%+)20.98%
Trusted Reviewers (Trust Rating: 60 – 89%)2210.73%
Fake Reviewers (Say They Test + Failing Trust Rating < 60%)9847.80%
Untrustworthy (Don’t Say They Test + Failing Trust Rating)8340.49%

It’s concerning how the Fake Reviewers class is the largest group out of the 205 reviewers. Here’s a bar chart illustrating how few trusted reviewers actually exist online.

tv trust score classifications breakdown
There are four Trust Rating Classifications, and it’s concerning how 88% of these 205 reviewers are either fake reviewers or untrustworthy.

The above are the 205 Trust Ratings in general, but how does this apply to the real world and affect you in every day life? How many of these fake reviewers are on page 1 of Google? What does a fake TV review look like?

Fake Reviews In Google Search Results_

Below is an example of a popular yet problematic page 1 of Google for the keyword “best tv for bright room” which earns 1,600 searches a month. There are six unique expert publications (RTINGs appears twice at the top and bottom) and three forums:

best tv for bright room serp analysis with trust scores

Out of the six publications:

  • 3 are Trusted Reviewers (reviewers who say they test and have at least a 60% Trust Rating)
    • RTINGs, CNET and Digital Trends
  • 2 are Fake Reviewers (reviewers who say they test but have under a 60% Trust Rating)
    • Forbes and Wired
  • 1 is an Untrustworthy Reviewer (reviewers who don’t claim to test but they earned under a 60% Trust Rating)
    • PC Guide
  • 2 are independent, and the other 4 belong to a parent company.
    • Independent: RTINGs and Digital Trends
    • Owned by a Parent Company: Forbes, CNET, Wired, and PC Guide

So you have a 50% chance of reading a fake or untrustworthy review amongst these search results. Here’s a table of the page 1 results:

POSITIONSITETYPE OF SITETRUST SCORECLAIMS TO TEST?
1RTINGsPublication101.40%Yes
2ForbesPublication43.20%Yes
3CNETPublication89.00%Yes
4PC GuidePublication11.60%No
5RedditForumN/AN/A
6WiredPublication26.80%Yes
7AVForumsForumN/AN/A
8Digital TrendsPublication70.00%Yes
9AVS ForumForumN/AN/A
10RTINGsPublication101.40%Yes

Forbes, WIRED, Rolling Stone, and other Big Media publications have transformed into content factories, pumping out misleading, low-effort buying guides with affiliate links at a rapid pace. This is suspicious behavior because every true TV tester knows that buying guides take a long time to produce. A guide needs thoughtful, thorough testing and research performed for each TV model.

Forbes’ Fake TV for Bright Rooms Buying Guide

Trust Rating: 43.20% | Position on SERP: 2 | Buying Guide

Forbes’ TVs for Bright Rooms guide is filled with stock images and makes no sense to be placed higher than CNET and Digital Trends who actually tested their TVs.

forbes stock image on bright room tv guide
The Forbes guide features only a stock image for their review of a $7,500 TV.

It gets more sketchy when Forbes claims to have performed “hands-on” testing, but you can’t find any quantitative measurements of the performance criteria that determine the true performance of the TV, such as brightness, response time, and color gamut.

forbes testing claim on guide
The author claims that testing and research was performed on these TVs, but there’s no proof and it’s vague as to which models were actually tested. It comes off that they were all researched.

For Forbes, this means they didn’t actually test the TV. It’s just a page of flowery text describing the TV specifications provided by the manufacturer.

WIRED’s Fake Review of the Samsung QN90B

Trust Rating: 26.80% | Position on SERP: 6 | Product Review

The other fake review on the page 1 search results is WIRED’s review on the Samsung QN90B. The author doesn’t explicitly say “tested” in the review (you can find “tested” mentions on their other TV reviews and guides), but WIRED isn’t off the hook yet since they insinuate it in the review. The author talks in the past tense and in first-person to recall his experience using the TV. He also says “evaluate” while claiming to have reviewed the TV’s color accuracy and light bleed by playing Stranger Things and Star Wars on it.

However, there’s no visual proof or quantitative test results to back up his positive evaluations of the picture quality.

WIRED testing claims in Samsung QN90B review
The author claims to have used the TV several times to evaluate criteria like display quality and provides “results”, but they’re all descriptive. Quantitative test results that should have been measured are nowhere to be found in the review.

WIRED strangely puts more effort into adding colored backgrounds to stock images of the Samsung than publishing real photos of the TV, which would be way more helpful.

WIRED stock image in Samsung QN90B review
WIRED provides only stock images of the TV but they claim to have used the TV in-person.

We can assume that the author spent days with this TV since he claims to have “hosted a few F1 viewing at his house when reviewing the unit”, so where are those real photos?

How Detailed.com and HouseFresh Have Also Exposed Flaws in TV Review Rankings

Our investigation, Detailed.com founder Glen Allsopp’s study, and HouseFresh founder Danny Ashton and Editor Gisele Navarro’s assessment validate the importance of the problem of Big Media outranking many independent publishers with low-effort reviews.

Our research quantitatively determined how few trustworthy TV reviewers there are and how Google presents fake reviews in 30% of its search results.

The Detailed.com study found that only 4 out of the top 100 sites for affiliate SERPs are independent. HouseFresh’s “David vs. Digital Goliaths” article also validates how Google’s algorithm has changed and ranks big media publishers high despite them producing fake reviews.

KEY STATISTIC_

Almost of search results on page 1 of Google are fake TV reviews—the publications who say they test but have a Trust Rating below 60%.

Gadget Review, TV Trust List 2024

As for the other categories that Gadget Review has researched, we’ve found more concerning statistics:

  1. For soundbars, 10 of the 122 publications analyzed actually perform tests on their soundbars. That means only 8% of publications test soundbars.
  2. For robot vacuums, 15 of the 78 (so 19%) publications actually test the robot vacuums they review.
  3. For computer monitors, 33 of the 116 publications we analyzed actually test their monitors, meaning only 28% of publications test.

Our Google Search Results Analysis_

We wanted to see just how much fakery users encounter when searching for TV reviews on Google. To do so, we researched 205 reviewers and applied the Trust Ratings to page 1 of the Google search results for TV-related keywords.

To ensure keyword diversity, we made sure their search volume added up in total to 50,000-60,000 searches per month. So annually, there are 720,000 unique individuals searching these TV keywords annually.

We took a look at page 1 of the search results for 18 TV keywords, and we found out that 720,000 people have a 31.09% chance of encountering a fake tested review.

When we investigated these 18 different page 1’s in March 2024, we first had to filter out all the forums and online retailers out of the total 161 search results. We were left with 119 expert publication reviewers.

Out of the 119 publication search results, again, 31.09% are fake reviews published by TV Reviewers that earned failing Trust Ratings and claimed to test the TVs.

Here’s a breakdown of our search result findings:

Though the presence of any fake reviews on page 1 of Google is concerning, this 31.09% is an improvement from our October 2023 search analysis, where we found that 37.09% of the search results were fake reviews.

The Fake Five_

Let’s talk about the five most popular TV reviewers that earned a failing Trust Rating under 60% and say they test. They earn the most traffic by ranking for the most TV keywords. These keyword market shares were identified in March of 2024 on Ahrefs.

We filtered their organic keywords to only show keywords that contain either “tv”, “tvs”, “televisions” or “television”. Then we excluded keywords that contain “show”, “shows”, “episode”, “episodes”, “stream”, “streaming”, “antenna”, “antennas”, “character”, or “characters” so we don’t get keywords related to TV programs or TV accessories.

Publication #1: Lifewire

Trust Rating: 48.40% | Buying Guide Example | Review Example

Lifewire’s the first of the Fake Five due to their large TV keyword marketshare of 124,297. They were founded in 1982 and belong to the famous Dotdash Meredith media conglomerate.

lifewire 48 to 55 inch tv buying guide screenshot
This is one of many of Lifewire’s TV buying guides with affiliate links. (Source: Lifewire’s 48-inch Buying Guide)

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 48.40%
  • Parent Company: Dotdash Meredith
  • Type of Reviewer: Multiple Tech Review
  • Total TV Keywords: 124,297
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs, Advertisements, Sponsored posts
  • Did they respond to our email?:

Publication #2: TechRadar

Trust Rating: 56.60% | Buying Guide Example | Review Example

Next on our list is TechRadar, a popular tech-focused publication founded in 2008 that’s one of sixteen reviewers we evaluated that are owned by Future PLC.

techradar best tv buying guide screenshot
TechRadar claims to test TVs at the top of their best TVs guide. (Source: TechRadar’s best TV Buying Guide)

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 56.60%
  • Parent Company: Future PLC
  • Type of Reviewer: Multiple Tech Review 
  • Total TV Keywords: 108,338
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs, Advertisements, Sponsored posts
  • Did they respond to our email?:

Publication #3: Consumer Reports

Trust Rating: 35.40% | Buying Guide Example | Review Example

Despite their reputation for “tested” product reviews, Consumer Reports, founded in 1936 is third on our list due to the lack of transparency and actual test results. And even worse, the non-profit’s fake reviews are hidden behind a paywall.

consumer reports guide screenshot
Consumer Reports claims to test TVs in their best TV buying guide’s sub-headline.

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 35.40%
  • Parent Company: N/A – Independent
  • Type of Reviewer: Multiple Tech Review
  • Total TV Keywords: 100,747
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs, User subscriptions, Investors (Note that they’re a non-profit*)
  • Did they respond to our email?:

Publication #4: The Verge

Trust Rating: 34.40% | Buying Guide Example | Review Example

The Verge, belonging to Vox Media, publishes TV reviews that include simple images of the TVs but lack testing and test result charts.

the verge review test claim screenshot
The reviewer highlights specs that the manufacturer provides, but they fail to mention quantitative test results. (Source: The Verge’s LG C2 OLED TV review)

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 34.40%
  • Parent Company: Vox Media
  • Type of Reviewer: Niche News
  • Total TV Keywords: 73,541
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs, Advertisements, Sponsored posts
  • Did they respond to our email?:

Publication #5: CNN

Trust Rating: 32.40% | Buying Guide Example | Review Example

The famous CNN founded in 1980, despite its reputation as a news outlet under Warner Bros. Discovery, wound up on our list since they decided to dip their toes into the world of product reviews with their own that lack comprehensive testing.

cnn buying guide test claim screenshot
This is another case where the writer claims to test the TV, but they don’t back up their conclusions with quantitative test results. (Source: CNN’s Samsung The Frame TV Review)

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 32.40%
  • Parent Company: Warner Bros. Discovery
  • Type of Reviewer: General News
  • Total TV Keywords: 73,176
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs, Advertisements, Sponsored posts
  • Did they respond to our email?:

Parent Companies Dominating The Search Results_

We wanted to determine how many TV reviewers in the Google search results are independent and how many belong to a parent company. Independent sites possess slightly over one-fourth of the search results, implying that Google prefers to rank TV reviewers who belong to large parent companies, several of which are gaming the system with fake reviews.

As you can see, Future PLC holds the largest portion of the search results out of any other parent company (almost one-third of the 119 search results).

Parent Company TV Search Results Presence pie chart

The presence that a reviewer or parent company possesses within the TV keyword SERPs is important because this can translate to the profit these parent companies are raking in. To be frank, the market potential of TV affiliate keywords is enormous–meaning there are millions of dollars at stake here.

The Keywords We Used_

The list of 18 TV keywords includes mostly “best-of” keywords along with best-seller TV model review keywords. If you’re new to these types of keywords, let us explain:

  • “Best-Of” Keywords: These are searched by users with transactional intent, helping them compare top product options before purchasing, as seen in searches like “best outdoor TVs.”
  • “Review” Keywords: These are searched by users with transactional intent seeking in-depth product reviews before purchasing (example: “Samsung Galaxy S21 review”).
KEYWORDTYPE OF KEYWORD# OF FAKE REVIEWERS ON PAGE 1KEYWORD MONTHLY SEARCH VOLUME
best tvBest-Of3/821,000
best 55 inch tvBest-Of1/67,800
best oled tvBest-Of1/67,400
best 4k tvBest-Of1/57,400
best gaming tvBest-Of2/94,700
best tv for bright roomBest-Of3/71,600
best tv for sportsBest-Of6/101,100
best samsung tvsBest-Of4/6700
best tvs under 1000Best-Of3/7500
best tv to use as a monitorBest-Of1/6500
best roku tvsBest-Of2/5350
best 75-inch tvBest-Of3/9300
best cheap tvsBest-Of0/6300
best small tvsBest-Of2/6250
best qled tvsBest-Of0/6250
lg c3 reviewReview2/72,400
sony a80k reviewReview2/5900
samsung s90c reviewReview1/5350

Our Solution To Fix This Problem_

Our commitment, our big “why,” is to expose the fake reviewers and reward the true testers through transparency and cooperation. Too many so-called “reviewers” are nothing but a house of cards. We want to blow them down and give you the tools to make the best choices on the products you want.

Here’s how we score:

  1. Identify which publications actually test.
  2. Look for authentic, long-term customer reviews*.

Then, we synthesize the two groups’ scores for products and distill that information down to what really matters so you can make an informed decision with our product True Scores.

Our True Score system revolutionizes product evaluation by combining trusted expert reviews, customer feedback, and advanced AI analysis to provide accurate, unbiased scores of a product’s value and effectiveness. By integrating expert reviews with Trust Ratings and customer insights, the system filters out fake reviews, ensuring only genuine assessments influence the final score.

To be transparent, our reviews contain affiliate links so we earn a small commission with each purchase. Here is how we earn money at this current time. However, Gadget Review is on a path to move away from relying only on affiliate commissions, and we’re working on adding a user subscription system.

We understand that our investigation’s findings may rustle some feathers, but this is all for the sake of the consumers. We want to send out the call for every single publication in the industry to strive for transparency and real testing in the landscape of online reviews.

*FYI: Long-term customer reviews are product evaluations provided by customers who have used a product or service for an extended period.Our TV Custom Questions_

The Top 5 Trustworthy TV Reviewers_

Below are your Most Trusted Reviewers for 2024. This goes in order of who earned the highest Trust Ratings for TVs. If they also have “No investors found”, that means they’re a self-funded business that isn’t financially supported by investors.

Publication #1: RTINGs

Trust Rating: 101.40% | Buying Guide Example | Example Review

RTINGS, an independent tech reviewer founded in 2011, sits at the top due to their its rigorous, data-driven analyses, transparent testing processes and more.

rtings guide test claim screenshot
RTINGs claims to have bought and tested over 400 TVs. (Source: RTINGs’ Winter Best TVs buying guide)

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 101.40%
  • Parent Company: Independent / Holding Company: Quebec Inc.
  • Type of Reviewer: Niche Tech Review
  • Total TV Keywords: 76,663
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs, Selling products, No investors
  • Did they respond to our email?:

Publication #2: PC Mag

Trust Rating: 91.40% | Buying Guide Example | Example Review

PC Mag, owned by Ziff Davis and founded in 1982, uses a meticulous testing approach that provides detailed quantitative data and clear, unbiased analysis.

pcmag guide screenshot
PC Mag claims to test TVs right off the bat, and they definitely show their work as you dive into their content. (Source: PC Mag’s Best TVs buying guide)

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 91.40%
  • Parent Company: Ziff Davis
  • Type of Reviewer: Multiple Tech Review
  • Total TV Keywords: 103,184
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs, ads, sponsored posts, paid traffic
  • Did they respond to our email?:

Publication #3: CNET

Trust Rating: 89.00% | Buying Guide Example | Example Review

CNET is another trusted publication belonging to Red Ventures which provides extensive expertise and quantitative analyses in their reviews.

cnet guide test screenshot
CNET makes their sub-header stand out with mentioning their testing lab immediately. (Source: CNET’s Best TVs buying guide)

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 89.00%
  • Parent Company: Red Ventures
  • Type of Reviewer: Multiple Tech Review
  • Total TV Keywords: 196,733
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs, ads, sponsored posts, and paid traffic
  • Did they respond to our email?:

Publication #4: TFT Central

Trust Rating: 88.63% | Review Example

TFT Central is an independent publication that specializes in detailed, technical tests of computer monitors and TVs and provides their results in a thorough amount of charts.

tft central response time test results
TFT provides in-depth, quantitative response time test results within color-coded tables, helping prove that they tested their TVs. (Source: TFT Central’s LG CX TV Review)

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 88.63%
  • Parent Company: Independent
  • Type of Reviewer: Hyperniche Tech Review
  • Total TV Keywords: 512
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs
  • Did they respond to our email?:

Publication #5: Sound and Vision

Trust Rating: 85.20% | Buying Guide Example | Example Review

Founded in 1958 and owned by AVTech Media Americas Inc., Sound and Vision commits to transparency and testing, offering quantitative test data and software screenshots in their TV reviews.

They identify the testing software and equipment they used to test the Samsung S95B along with screenshots of the software. (Source: Sound and Vision’s Test Bench tab of their Samsung S95B TV review)

Trust Analysis:

  • Trust Rating: 85.20%
  • Parent Company: AVTech Media Americas Inc.
  • Type of Reviewer: Niche Tech Review
  • Total TV Keywords: 7,437
  • How they earn their money: Affiliate programs, advertisements, sponsored posts

Top 100 TV Trust Ratings Ranked_

Here are the top 100 reviewers for TVs out of the 205 (technically 101 reviewers since #s 100 and 101 earned the same Trust Rating). Keep in mind that only the top 24 of them publish trustworthy, reliable TV reviews, while the majority of them are not trustworthy.

If you’re curious about the entire list of 205 reviewers, what specific guides and product reviews we looked at, and what Trust Ratings they received, here’s the entire list in order of best Trust Ratings to the bottom of the barrel. 

The Next Evolution Of This Trust List_

This concludes our Trust List that analyzed the best and worst TV testers and the current climate of the TV review industry. 

Our goal was to help you discover a way to spot that fake review, and to follow our lead on the most trusted TV reviewers out there when it comes to purchasing your latest television.

And we’re not finished yet! This Trust List has room to grow, so make sure to check back soon! In the next version, we want to incorporate more actionable opportunities that you, the consumer, can check out. Here’s what’s coming next:

  • TV Buying Guides based on the True Scores
  • Long-term authentic customer reviews

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