Review and Disclosure Policy

At, we rarely do product or software reviews. Instead, it’s all about the actual benefit that comes to the business owner or entrepreneur from the product or service. Usually, it takes time for benefits or problems to come out. Though I am personally an early adopter of many technologies, I limit the number of reviews I actually do to the technologies that are going to significantly positively affect a company. Rarely do I go out of the way to get a review copy of anything.

Last week, I was invited by Sprint to attend the Washington, D.C. pre-launch event for the Palm Prē, the new smartphone that is supposed to be an iPhone killer. In advance, I asked for a review unit. It is difficult to know what the significance of a product is in the store. I need to use it for a period of time. I was not allowed to take a Prē home and that is fine. I am on a list and may get an opportunity down the road.

The conversation that night was around what kind of review I’d provide of the unit. Sprint never asked for a positive review but assumed I would provide a review and only wanted fairness out of me. I explained that in my role as a “signal filter”, I would not guarantee a review but I wouldn’t write a negative review. If it’s not a good product, then my audience does not need to even hear about it. The only reason they need to hear about a product is if the product is going to help them run their businesses better. For instance, if I agree to review Peet’s Coffee and they send me 6 half pound bags of different beans, I’m going to love the product. Big fan of Peets. But I’m not posting a review, positive or negative, on this site.

However, as a product that seems to perfectly straddle the world between the iPhone, the best consumer phone, and BlackBerry, the best business phone – the PrÄ“ is likely to get airtime somehow. It’s relevant. Reviews should always be relevant and not simply required.

Tangentially, the PrÄ“ and the “review copy” problem reared it’s ugly head between Techcrunch’s Mike Arrington and’s Leo Laporte over the weekend.

I think it’s important for anyone who does product reviews of any kind to aggressively protect their ethical priorities. Make your disclosure policy overt and out there (as I am doing here). Let there be no opportunity for question. Reviews can be productive when they are disclosed, relevant to the audience (not simply relevant to your wallet if you do paid reviews) and handled with the utmost of caution. Failure to protect your integrity on this delicate issue can cause you to lose all credibility.

Keep it in mind.

Thoughts on PayPerPost – The Only Time I'll Talk About It

A lot has been said about PayPerPost over the past few years and largely, I’ve stayed quiet on the matter. My silence should not be interpreted as acceptance of how the business is setup or “sold” to bloggers. Techcrunch and others have covered the company, the business practice and the impact on the blogosphere ad nauseum. I have no desire to cover the same ground, so this will be the one and only post on the matter. :-)

At SXSW, I spoke in some length with Ted Murphy, CEO of IZEA, the umbrella company that PayPerPost operates under. It was a really great conversation as we relaxed on the rooftop patio at the SXNW party. People watched jealously as we lounged comfortably while everyone stood around trying to talk to other people. :-)

At any rate, Ted expressed that the focus of his company is to provide bloggers with choice. Bloggers want to be able to make money, and we help them do that. For those not aware, PayPerPost pays bloggers to write reviews of companies and products. They no longer require “positive” reviews and now allow for disclosure of paid posts, however in my opinion, the damage is done and not everything is being disclosed from the PPP side.

I’m all about blogger’s choice, and providing opportunities for bloggers to make money. However, these choices and decisions must be made as educated decisions. If bloggers make the decision to use PayPerPost based on an understanding of the ramifications of paid content, then the decision and the consequences are completely on them. However, an offer to make money without ensuring that the blogger knows the consequences of these actions is shady.

Bloggers largely can face three major consequences of using Paid Review services such as PayPerPost: Loss of search indexing, loss of credibility and loss of readers. Not all bloggers will suffer consequences, and not all bloggers will face immediate ramifications. But the potential is there, and this is the context that these decisions should be made in.

Loss of Search Indexing

Some bloggers don’t care, or they simply don’t try to ensure that their blog is listed high in search engines like Google and Yahoo. To many more, ensuring PageRank (whatever it is?), good search engine result positioning (SERPs) is critical for the growth of there blogs. Because PayPerPost largely targets new and longterm bloggers, this search aspect might be foreign or even completely unknown to the blogger. Matt Cutts, the Google Spammer (not spammer as in he spams, but spammer as in he ensures the Google index is free of spam) has already talked quite a bit about Google’s position regarding paid content and links that pass “bought” influence. Whether you agree with him or not, he is the authority on this stuff and bloggers should understand the ramifications of paid content.

Loss of Credibility

Bloggers watch what other bloggers do and they take their cues from them. As you post paid content, the reputation loss that can be had from other bloggers or potential jobs, etc is vast. Anyone who is willing to “sell” their objective judgement for a few bucks is seen as the lowest form of life on the planet.

Loss of Readers

Potentially the biggest immediate impact that bloggers would face is the loss of reputation among readers. They expect you to be something and when you’re not, they’ll head for the hills. Contrary to popular belief, readers are not as loyal as you might think. If they see you using them for monetary gain, they are exponentially more likely to walk away and never come back.

While I have a lot of respect for Ted, my only remaining beef with PPP is that they are not proactively doing what they can to make sure bloggers understand the consequences. Give bloggers a choice, but make sure they understand the consequences. If they decide to press forward with the service, that decision is on them.