Sponsors and Transparency

The official reboot of my Going Paperless series kicked off yesterday. I often mention or recommend different types of software and hardware products in these posts. Pushing a product or service without disclosing how one is compensated for such promotion is murky business at best. I prefer to be completely transparent. To that end, here are a few things to keep in mind when reading posts in which I mention or refer to various products that I use.

1. I don’t promote products that I have never used myself

I don’t believe in plugging things I have never used myself. If I mention it in a blog post I have used it, and usually in more than just a casual fashion. I probably get 2 or 3 requests a month to try out a product and promote it here on the blog. I routinely turn these down. I’d say that 8 out of 10 things I find useful are things I’ve stumbled across on my own. The other 2 out of 10 are things that readers have recommended to me. If I end up using something that a reader recommends, I’ll usually try to give that reader a shout-out.

2. I prefer to pay for the products and services I use myself

The vast majority of software, software services, and gadgets that I mention on the blog I have not only used myself, but paid for myself. When I find something useful, I pay for it. Buffer, Boomerang, CrashPlan, ThinkUp, GitHub, VaultPress are all examples services that I have recommended on the blog. I pay for all of these services. I prefer this because when I pay for something I feel like there is no conflict of interest whatsoever. I makes things easier.

3. I try to be completely transparent about compensation I do receive for products and services I mention

On a few rare occasions, I have been compensated for something I’ve written about, but I have also tried to mention that at some point along the way. As an Evernote ambassador, I don’t pay for my Evernote Business account, but am not otherwise compensated. And I was paying for an Evernote premium account before I ever became an ambassador.

Three-and-a-half years ago or so, Fujitsu reached out to ask if I wanted to try their Scansnap s1300i. They assured me there was no obligation to write a review. I accepted, and I did end up recommending the scanner—and still do. Three-and-a-half years later, it is still the only scanner I use, and it has worked flawlessly for me. Why wouldn’t I recommend it.

There have been two or three other things I have been given over the years. In these cases, after using them, I decided they didn’t work for me. They never made it into my regular workflow, and I never wrote about them.

At some point, when I have a little more time, I plan to put up a page on the blog that will list each time I’ve been compensated in some way for something I’ve mentioned on the blog. I can assure you that the list will be short—and obvious (like my Evernote Business account).

As I have said, the vast majority of what I use, I have paid for myself. I prefer it that way.

If there are any questions about this, drop them in the comments.

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