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.

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

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