Gary Marshall links to a surprisingly candid and lengthy piece by Nigel Whitfield on the state of reviews for the tech press. If you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes and don’t know a freelance journo you can get drunk enough to reveal all (and, let’s face it, that means you just don’t know a freelance journo, because most would sell their souls for half a stout and a packet of peanuts), it provides plenty of insight.

Particular gems include the rather brutal fact of reviewers having a lack of time. Whitfield notes that half-page reviews may pay as low as £80, and if you spend a day screwing around with a product to get it to work, before spending a day testing it, you’re rapidly heading below minimum wage. The reality is actually worse: £80 isn’t a bad rate at all these days, and many freelancers earn less than half of that for a half page, and so get £30 to £50 to fully review a piece of software or hardware (including sourcing imagery, writing the review and editing/marking up said review). Online, things are even worse, with some websites offering as little as £10 for a 500-word review, images and HTML mark-up of edited content.

These days, the only way reviews can be financially viable is if the reviewer already has enough knowledge to get through testing reasonably efficiently. That’s why you tend to see the same people review the same products quite a lot, and it’s also why you sometimes find an obvious flaw isn’t flagged in a review: the reviewer likely had to knock testing on the head after spending twice as long on it as they’d initially wanted to, in order to make enough money to do trivial things such as paying the rent, buying food, and the like.

Still, there are times when I get teeth-gnashingly angry about errors in review copy. John Gruber found an absolute gem over at Information Week; Eric Zeman pitches the iPhone 4 against the Droid X, and rather oddly says that “The iPhone 4 won’t support applications built in-house by businesses,” which therefore “gives the Droid X a slight advantage when it comes to apps”. Given that every single Apple keynote on the iPhone has rattled on about its enterprise app capability, and also that Apple has a section on its website about this functionality, this is one of those times where I feel zero sympathy for the writer.

It’s one thing missing an obscure fact, or incorrectly stating how a feature works, but to in a business magazine incorrectly state a device you’re reviewing lacks business-oriented functionality when an explanation of said business functionality is accessible by typing “iphone enterprise apps” into Google is unprofessional, incompetent and totally unfair on the article’s audience.