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.

10 Replies to “ Review and Disclosure Policy”

  1. “If it’s not a good product, then my audience does not need to even hear about it.” I like this policy of yours, though I’m sure if a product were actually harmful and that it would do you well to warn your audience, you’d write about it.

  2. Smart post. Blogs that obtain traffic by fanatical followings can quickly lose their visitor base by giving in to greediness by reviewing products that truly have no value.

  3. It’s not clear where the cash versus product distinction came from in this question and why it makes a difference. If a product is given to a blogger, economic value is clearly given — the value of the product. If a product is given as a loaner, economic value is still given — the value of renting such a product for the loaner period

  4. Aaron,
    I understand your point, however if you relate a story such as this and give your opinion, such as “that’s fine,” aren’t you actually giving a review of sorts? Just by mentioning a brand or product you have made the product or subject of your post searchable. For example, you’ve made the statement “Big fan of Peets.” That can be taken out of context or construed to be a review if someone was to search for Peet’s Coffee. Yet, if you mentioned “coffee” as a generic you would not have been able to clearly illustrate the example.
    So perhaps a separate “Disclosure Policy” page would be appropriate? I know a lot of people totally respect your opinions and that’s why I read your blog – not because of paid or unpaid reviews, but because you write well and express your opinions clearly and with reason.

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