Not commenting on the truth of the article but I can certainly see how it might gain momentum when builds continuously use the same HD brand when it's last in the benchmarks on the site and there's an article saying the manufacture just sent us 10 of these. The continual switching of price categories from month to month in the GFX card roundups with some $10 apart followed by a big jump will also fuel this fire.
How was this proven?? As a veteran of the music business I can tell you without a doubt payola is not dead. For that matter I'm sure it's thriving in all aspects of business, including tech. It's just the nature of the beast, whomever has the cash has the voice - despite whether it's called "advertising" or not. It's doesn't prove if the benchmarks are right or wrong, just the apparent "timeliness" what articles are written. It's in the best interest of the consumer to study the entire gamut of reviews/benchmarks to come up with an opinion about a product. Through the popularity of video sites nowadays, it's becoming harder to hide the truth as enthusiasts (you and me) are posting their own reviews and benchmarks to the masses. The only payola going on there is from their own pocket to Newegg.