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Friday, June 19, 2009

Rank deception? Line blurred between most worthy communities and best advertisers

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    Where to Retire magazine's annual choice of "America's 100 Best Master-Planned Communities" is the centerpiece of its July/August issue.  The list includes some fine communities, many of which I have visited and can recommend.  But the magazine's ranking criteria is a bit suspect, and the selections appear to have two overlapping traits in common:  1) Most of the communities have significant inventories of unsold developer properties, and 2) It appears that most or all ahve advertised in Where to Retire.
    I obviously have nothing against a communication vehicle making a buck from advertising (you may have noticed the Google ads on this site).  But inherent in the name Where to Retire is the
Where to Retire should make clear the connection between who makes its list and who advertises in their publication.

notion of dispensing advice and, therefore, the presumption of impartiality.  Where to Retire does itself and certainly its readers a disservice by not making clear the connection between its editorial decisions and its advertisers.  A couple of years ago, I asked one of the magazine's editors how its panel of judges made its decision on which communities make the top 100 list.  "We have people in the field who know these communities well," she told me.  "They send in their recommendations and we judge from that."  Journalists do not string for publications like Where to Retire; the only conclusion is that recommendations are made by either residents or developers' representatives, or a mix of both...not exactly an unbiased sampling.
    Communities and their marketing agents have become plenty sophisticated at blurring the lines between honest assessment and self-promotion.  A few years ago, Resort Living magazine, which had the look and feel of an independent leisure living publication, wrote an article judging that The Cliffs Communities' club membership was "the most comprehensive" of any.  After a modest Internet search, I discovered that The Cliffs' own marketing firm published Resort Living.  When I called her, The Cliffs director of communication dismissed the clear deception as no big deal, saying that if "the [marketing] agency thinks it is true, we are fine with them saying so."  Of course you are...
    This is why I started Golf Community Reviews, to provide an alternative to all the hyperbole and occasional deception.  I actually visit the communities I review and recommend only those that pass my inspection standards.  Because I pay for my green fees and accommodations and don't solicit advertising from those communities, I can describe them, warts and all.  I have trashed a few over the years, but most of the ones I recommend suffer a jab or two. I am certainly jealous of Where to Retire's revenue stream, but at least I don't feel compromised.

Next:  Ignoring some outstanding places to live...

Read 3623 times Last modified on Friday, 19 June 2009 16:41
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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.

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