Earlier this week, Wired posted a story about what they call "App Store Payola" -- the practice of sites that solicit cash payments (or other compensation) in order to expedite or publish app reviews. This isn't anything new. Ever since the App Store first went online, there have been sites that have offered developers a chance at the spotlight in return for behind-the-scenes payment. Apparently, it is still going on, and Wired's piece takes a good look at what's under the table.
It should go without saying, but for the record: TUAW isn't involved in this practice, and never has been. We will use promo codes for reviews rather than buying the apps directly, but a promo code doesn't guarantee a review and it definitely doesn't influence our stated opinions on the products we cover. Informally, our editorial team gives a thumbs up to the OATS standard, although TUAW hasn't officially joined the sites promoting the 'code of conduct' for app reviews.
Nevertheless, this is an interesting issue. My main question actually revolves around whether or not this practice actually "works" for the developer -- do devs who pay the $25, or whatever these "Reviews R Us" sites are charging, actually see returns in their product's sales or downloads?