Tyler Simpson knows a lot about reviewing tech products. The Seattle 14-year-old and his friend, Brandon Keller, have created several YouTube channels, including ThatAppleGeek, where they review products and report on technology.
With their YouTube experience and following, Simpson and Keller now get loaner units from vendors so they don't have to buy products just to review them. They are building OrbitFront as a platform to help other online reviewers get loaners, reach an audience, form a community with other reviewers, and earn some money along the way. They'll introduce the site at the Demo Fall conference in Santa Clara, California, on Wednesday.
OrbitFront, which was set to go live in alpha testing by Wednesday, will act as an intermediary between vendors and online reviewers. Manufacturers will work with OrbitFront to list products available for review on the site, and reviewers will go through the catalog to pick out the gear they want to try. It will be up to the reviewers to request loaners from the vendors, but OrbitFront will collect and forward those requests.
When a vendor approves a loan request, it will provide a discount code that the reviewer can use to order the product for free through the OrbitFront site. After two weeks, the loaner will be due back to the vendor. To protect vendors from reviewers who try to keep the products they're lent, OrbitFront will follow up on vendor complaints and then dock the reviewer's PayPal account for the price of the product if necessary, Simpson said.
The site will host both video and written reviews. Though it will start out with videos embedded from YouTube, OrbitFront is also working on its own hosting platform. The company will work to keep the reviews useful, weeding out ones that don't take a critical look at products and back up their conclusions, Simpson said. The community of reviewers on OrbitFront will provide some of that policing by flagging content, and the company will follow up with warnings and possible canceling of offending reviewers' accounts.
"A biased reviewer won't last long on the site, because if a follower of them buys the item because of their review, they're obviously going to be outraged if it's a horrible product, when it got high marks," Simpson said.
Consumers who read or watch a review on OrbitFront will be able to buy the product immediately through the site. OrbitFront won't be a reseller itself but will connect visitors with the vendors' own stores, similar to the way Amazon Marketplace acts as a channel for many sellers, Simpson said. When the sale is made, the reviewer and OrbitFront each will get a 5 percent cut of the price. For reviewers who have advertising on their YouTube videos, embedding them on OrbitFront's site can also generate additional views and revenue, Simpson said.
OrbitFront is already talking with some vendors about participating, Simpson said. The company expects to start out with midsize vendors of accessories rather than big device makers such as Apple and Samsung. Attracting a strong lineup of vendors is the biggest challenge Simpson sees for the company. However, working with OrbitFront can give vendors valuable product feedback and good exposure, he said.
"Users trust reviews a lot, unlike advertising," Simpson said. "It actually works quite well as marketing."