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We’d Like Your Input on Ethics in Blogging

Blogging ethics in product reviews We’d like your input concerning credibility and integrity in product reviews that appear on blogs.  Specifically, we’re interested in what factors you, our readers, think influence the credibility of a product review.  Your input will factor into some decisions we make here at 40Tech.

By way of background, we’ve been contacted twice here at 40Tech by two different companies, with requests to run articles about software products.  In both situations, the articles were written by the software developers themselves.  We didn’t run either article, for obvious reasons.  Situations won’t always be so clear cut, though.  When, if ever, is it OK for a blogger to write an article, if solicited to write it by an outside party?

Photo by quaziefoto.

We don’t pretend to know all of the answers, and we don’t want to come across as "holier than thou," but our credibility is the most important factor to us.  There are a few obvious lines we don’t want to cross.  We won’t run a product review that we don’t believe in, just because we’d get paid, or because we get free software.

In one of the situations mentioned above, we were offered a free copy of the software to be "reviewed," as well as some free licenses for readers.  We informed that company that we don’t publish articles about a product written by product manufacturers, but that we would be willing to perform a fair and impartial review of the software.  We told the company that it would need to provide the software, and if the program met our standards, we’d want to be able to offer some free licenses to readers.  If we couldn’t give the program a favorable review, we wouldn’t give out any licenses, and we’d uninstall the software and return the license we were using.  We haven’t heard back from that particular company.

Even our way of handling it might be a less than ideal situation.  Ideally, we could purchase each and every item that we review, so that we don’t subconsciously favor a company that was nice enough to provide a product.  In fact, so far we have done that (except for programs that are free, of course).  But some day I’m sure we’ll run into the same problem that many small blogs run into.  Namely, we won’t have enough resources to buy everything we review.

This is an age-old problem with publications.  For years, writers have received complimentary items to review.  Sometimes they return them when finished with a review, sometimes not.  And many publications run reviews of products, at the same time that they are accepting advertising revenue from the manufacturer of those same products.  As far as I know, Consumer Reports is the only publication that purchases every product that it tests.

So, where should the line be drawn?  What do you think of the "policy" that we developed on the fly, telling a company that we’d consider publishing our own impartial review, but that the company must provide the product?  We truly are interested in your opinions.  We’re not saying that we will make our decision solely based upon the input we receive here, but we will consider all opinions, and do want to hear from more voices on this.