Where Have All the Netbooks Gone? Dell? HP? Bueller?

I’m annoyed. If you’ve looked around my blog at all, you probably noticed that I write about family-friendly technology for a well-known website. I have a not-so-insignificant readership over there and people often take my recommendations when it comes to purchasing technology for their families. Typically, if I am in need of a review unit for a product, PR people are more than happy to oblige. While I generally am not asked to return smaller items, I am expected to return items worth more than $100.

So, when I wanted to write an article about purchasing a netbook as a second family computer, I decided it would be wise to ask for a review unit so I could give better hands-on advice. I didn’t intend to keep it for more than a week or two and I planned to write a specific review of that unit to enhance my content and make it more worthwhile for the company in question. The obvious choices for me to ask were HP (they seem to be giving away netbooks like water) and Dell (well-known for family computer shoppers).

After digging around for contacts with both companies, I put out a plea (one at a time, of course) for the loan of a review unit. I explained my cause, gave some hard statistics about our site traffic (which is hardly trivial) and asked in my most polite, pretty-please voice. And while the answer wasn’t, “No,” in either case, it was actually a bit more puzzling: “We don’t have any review units available.” Huh? Where did they go? Why aren’t they coming back? And why can’t you just simply open another box? I mean, before you send Blogger X her swanky new netbook (sigh – Vivienne Tam mini…) to review and keep, why can’t I borrow it for two weeks? It’s free press for you! Theoretically they were going to get back to me when a unit was available. Apparently, other folks aren’t expected to return theirs… ever.

I admittedly have given up the cause, but not without a bit of a grudge against HP and Dell for not finding a way to make this work. Journalists and PR people need to work hand in hand when it comes to product reviews. And, yes, I could have gone after some of the other netbook manufacturers, but it’s actually not that easy to get contact info for the right people if you haven’t worked with the company before. I had to do a certain amount of digging and pleading to get the information I did find.

Ironically, when I have been asked in recent months about companies I feel good about recommending to others, HP has been high on my list. It’s a company that I considered myself fairly loyal to. Oh, well…

3 Responses to Where Have All the Netbooks Gone? Dell? HP? Bueller?

  1. Hi Christy —
    First, let me thank you for wanting to include HP in a mini-notebook review. Second, I’m sorry that I hadn’t seen your post until today.

    I’ll be at BlogHer ’09, and although I’m not responsible for setting up reviews for our desktops and notebooks, I’d be happy to meet with you to explain in depth how HP’s review programs work. As much as program managers like myself would personally like to provide product to each request we receive, the demand to do so for a company that operates in more than 170 countries around the world is incredibly high.

    I know the product loan process may seem as simple as grabbing a product from a ever-renewable stack of new boxes in the corner storage room and dropping it in the mail (and there has been a Friday or two after a 60-hour week I wish it was!), but being incredibly committed to the policies, guidelines, ethics and regulations that govern re: review units and marketing and advertising does add some layers to the process (not to mention the organizational/operational structures/budgets/management that go with supporting bloggers in 170 countries).

    Your opinion — and every customer’s opinion — is incredibly important to us. If you have the time — and interest — to meet face-to-face at BlogHer ’09, I’d welcome the opportunity to grab a coffee and learn more about you and your review program. If that’s not possible, you can find me at the Type-A Momfluence party sponsored by HP, hanging out at the HP Vlogging Room, or at the six “Business of You” BlogHer sessions on Friday at Saturday that HP is sponsoring.

    Please feel free to drop me a note on Twitter — http://www.twitter.com/AngelaAtHP

    Thanks very much!
    Angela LoSasso,
    U.S. Social Media, HP

  2. Thanks, Angela. I can certainly appreciate the sheer volume HP deals with on a regular basis and my comments about simply opening another box were meant to be flip. On the other hand, while I’ve been trying to borrow a netbook for a week or two, HP has been giving them away everywhere I look. Given the size and reputation of the site I was reviewing for (I didn’t mention it in my post because this was more of a personal rant than a professional one), I was surprised that I was unable to get my hands on a unit. And, I was also surprised that none of the review units were expected back at any time in the near future.

    I will be at BlogHer and would love to chat with you at some point. I hope to swing by Type-A Mom’s party (it overlaps with my sponsor’s party!) and possibly the vlogging room.

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