Found at the Silicon Valley New Tech Meetup last night: PowerReviews, yet another site that collects user reviews (see also ViewScore, Wize, Retrevo, DigitalAdvisor, and TheFind). But in a diabolically clever way: The company's first product, which has been out for a while, is a technology platform that online retailers use to collect user reviews for the items they sell. Businesses using the technology include J&R Electronics, Adorama, Ritz Camera, and Walgreens. PowerReviews provides user reviews technology free to these and other businesses. In return, it gets rights to repurpose the reviews on its own aggregation site.
This setup gives PowerReviews control over two big factors. First, since the company provides the reviews templates to its customers, it can ensure consistency in how products are written up. For example, all PowerReviews-enabled sites ask users to score products on a 1-to5-star scale and enter in pros, cons, and "best uses" for each product. Second, since the reviews are attached to commerce sites, PowerReviews can ensure than only people who actually purchased a particular product can review it.
PowerReviews doesn't have to scrounge the Web for user reviews, and it doesn't have to beg users to write reviews for its own site. It just siphons off the data it's collecting on behalf of its customers. And they apparently don't mind, since user reviews are all ultimately connected to the site they came from and can thus generate additional traffic back to the online store.
How is it? The content is quite good, and it's diverse as well. There are plenty of reviews of digital cameras, but you'll also find BBQ grills and bras. There's also a cool feature that lets you compare users' overall satisfaction with a product type across different brands.
My only problem with this service right now (it's in beta) is that the same product, if sold by various retailers, is listed on the site as different products. For example, the Canon SD600 is listed three times, with a different set of reviews for each.
The site should launch in February. If you sign up for the "private beta" now, you should get an access code within a few hours.