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The term conjures up flea markets, Salvation Army stores, going antiquing and in general the potential for a good deal. Today I'll apply it to hifi reportage. What's second-hand hifi reportage? How about commenting on a formal review whilst packaging it as a type of editorial? Comments on published writing are the stuff our forums thrive on. Yet those posters never propose to present their comments or critiques as a form of 'review'; as a formal review on a formal review as it were.

Yet precisely that sort of thing is now starting to pop up in more formalized settings. As someone who makes a living from reviewing to spend considerable time on the job, it's a bit as though writers of such pieces couldn't be bothered to produce their own reviews. Those are work that requires weeks of listening and days of putting down. Instead they favour discussing someone else's work. That's easily done over a few hours in a single afternoon. If it serves to make a point for which the review under discussion serves as the peg, I find such commentary entirely legit when it occurs occasionally. But when it begins to become routine content generator just to have stuff up, it begins to feel second-hand. And not as a good deal but expression of laziness.

Even so second-hand reporting is here to stay. Some sites—or perhaps more properly portals—actually view themselves like traffic cops. They direct traffic to other sites by posting daily updated lists of reviews published elsewhere. Perhaps they quote an intro or extro paragraph. Perhaps they mix in their own comments before embedding the 'to read the full review, click here' link. Perhaps they also publish prefab press releases verbatim. But that's the extent of their content generation. For this service they sell advertising just like the formal review publications do.

In a way it's predatory and opportunistic. Without the 'borrowed' reviews they'd have nothing worth linking to, nothing original to monetize. It's a timely byproduct of the Internet's interactivity and the tangled webs it weaves. In the end it just is. It's part of the same landscape that sees one's work plagiarized, misquoted, reposted, translated without permission or used to sell pre-owned gear. It's all part of being a hifi writer who, though in a very small pond, becomes a sort of public figure, his work a free commodity. As in any other sector, the process of working in public view subjects one to criticism and ridicule from total strangers. That of course pales by contrast to real celebrities in the movie, sports and tabloid sectors who suffer intrusions into their private lives. If one lacks the skin for exposure even in our small hifi puddle, one best pursue something else. Today one must simply grow an extra skin for seeing one's work appear in the context of second-hand reporting.

Describing what something sounds like really is the crux of audio reviewing. It's rather easier to pen philosophical hifi tomes which stick to theory and ideals rather than get down to actual descriptions; or write dissections of reviews published elsewhere. Perhaps because these alternatives are so much easier to do is why we're seeing more of them now?