Timezone.com and Watchnet.com are watch information related forums now owned by popular watch and clock auction house Antiquroum. Most online watch information forums present areas of watch discussion, brand and news talk, and sales forums for buyers and sellers alike. The concept is brilliant and effective. A relatively low maintenance system providing for a rich organic community online. A watch lover can get most of what they desire through discussion with other watch lovers, and the ability to buy and sell with out the minor costs and additional complexity that auction sites present. In fact forum types sites are among the most traffic generating website on the internet.
The vast majority of content on a watch forum is user generated. The idea is to be a place for the members, by the members. While there might be a degree of advertising, these sites are web 2.0 at its finest. A problem exists when one needs to monitor and maintain the forum. There is need to expunge spam, harassment of members, and content which is clearly undesirable or not relevant. However, such actions must be made with deference to the most revered of American rights; freedom of expression. As such, most forums are able to juggle the needs of the users with the need of the forum to maintain its decorum.
Timezone.com (which collectively shall include watchnet.com) has a growing reputation for banning and censoring its members. Banning is typically a severe action reserved for when no other remedy is successful. Banning means that a member is forever disallowed to post or use the forum and site ever again. Sometimes banning effects an e-mail address only, but can include banning entire IP addresses altogether. Timezone.com began as a haven for watch enthusiasts, but now is said to be a haven for advertisers. Current and past users complain that their accounts were banned, or their postings censored or edited to better reflect the interests of the Timezone.com advertisers or owners. This is truly a sad state of affairs for what is supposed to be a member driven watch community.
Click here to see a discussion thread regarding the issue of Timezone engaging in indiscriminate banning. There the sentiment seems to fall on Timezone.com exclusively catering to the needs of its advertisers. Users says something negative about an advertiser’s product? Ban them. Try to sell something that competes with an advertiser? Ban them. Try to mention your own a personal website that might compete with Timezone in some way? Ban them. Here the good people at Watchreport.com comment on similar situations at Timezone.com. While being diplomatic, it is obvious that Timezone.com engages in behavior most other watch forums would clearly not tolerate. Still more, this ex-Timezone.com member was dismayed with his “particularly nasty” Timezone.com experience. Scroll down the site in the link to see the discussion. These are but some of the many negative experiences people have had with Timezone.com that can be read about online.
A close look at the guidelines and policies page for Timezone.com illustrates that Timezone can ban users for a number of reasons, including placing links to other watch related websites (how absurd), talking negatively about an advertiser, referring to any site that may have watches for sale, discussing pricing, or essentially any other reason Timezone wishes to formulate to ban you. “Timezone is a semi-private, conditional use website.” That statement alone covers it. If Timezone.com does not like what you have to say, and if you represent even an iota of competition to its owners or advertisers, you will be banned without notice.
Most Timezone.com users are likely unaware of these policies. Other respected watch forums such as Watchuseek.com, pmwf.com, watchreport.com, and others respect its members much more. While advertising is a necessary means of making money to maintain a site which does not enjoy user fees, etc…, these are not supposed to be marketing websites. Free speech aside, the dilemma here is clear. When you have a forum that is perceived a venue for the exchange of ideas, the intentional censorship and modification of such ideas (for no good reason) is egregious and destroys the entire value of a site for a watch enthusiast or anyone. Timezone is simply not an objective source for anyone.
Another illustrative example regards mention of eBay. The owner of Timezone.com is Antiquorum.com. A venue for conducting watch related auctions. The obvious competitor is eBay, but the differences are extreme, and you’ll not often hear someone comparing to the two. Regardless, the mere mention of eBay on Timezone.com can get you banned. Members often have to result to saying things such as “that online auction site” i order to avoid mention of eBay. This is remarkably silly, and it is outstanding that the sophisticated members who add all the value that Timezone.com has by posting there, put up with this status quo. The only rationale being that most members don’t know about these polices. Sure a member will occasionally discover that their friends and fellow posters on Timezone have disappeared. Those many who fall into the ether are banned for life, never to come back and complain.
Timezone.com is legally allowed to engage in this behavior for the most part. There might be instances where they unlawfully deprive people of business expectation or alike. But for the most part, they are within their rights to abuse their members in described manner. The evolution of this situation is obvious, what started as a wonderful place for watch lovers to aggregate and engage is heart discussion eventually become too popular for the founder. The high traffic of the site tantalized advertisers and eventually Antiquorum.com that realized it would be a wonderful marketing decision to monetize what it could out of Timezone. The issue stems in the nature of forum sites. They just cannot make money very easily. They are attractive due to their high number of active members and activity, but subsist on their ability to be free and easy. Charging admission or a fee to use it wouldn’t work from a business perspective, so the decision was made to disguise the nature of the site.
Advertisers pay dearly for impressions and hopefully conversion (consumer converting to customer). The watch industry is such that many purchase decisions are done emotionally, but at the same time the character of the average watch consumer indicates that they are going to ask questions and do research. Upon using a site like Timezone to conduct research on a watch, a resulting absence of negative commentary may very well fuel and immediate purchase decision. This is what the advertisers are hoping for, but this is an obviously anti-consumer trend. Any consumer has the right to be informed, and ever advertiser has the right to know what negative things are being said about their product. In essence, Timezones policies are hampering beneficial product development by inhibiting valuable consumer feedback from reaching advertisers.
Not being a Timezone insider, I cannot comment with great specificity as to the internal manner in which Timezone is operated. I can however say that the mass banning of members, highly restrictive content guidelines, and totalitarian approach to doing business is inappropriate for the type of resource it claims to be and effectively removes its ability to be a welcome destination for watch consumers or enthusiasts. I cannot comment on the practices of other forums, but to my current knowledge only Timezone.com engage in conduct which is so flagrantly anti-consumer.
Having said all this I in no way request Timezone to amend its manner of doing business, if they are making decent money from the website, then I tip my hat to them. My desire is that information be dispersed sufficient enough for watch lovers to become as best acquainted with the online watch information ecosystem, as possible. Share your experiences please.