The U.S. Federal Trade Commission this week announced rules for bloggers who take money and various other forms of booty in exchange for reviewing products. Somehow I missed this business of selling one’s soul. But I think it is a good idea to take a moment and be straight with my readers about the limits of my journalistic ethics in this space.
I don’t take money for reviewing products because I don’t review products. Never have, never will. So don’t send me any products, okay?
Publishers send me early copies of a few books per year, generally hoping I’ll either provide a quote for the book jacket or write a positive column about it. I do accept such books but rarely write about them. If I give a quote it is never for money, mainly because I didn’t think anyone would pay. I was probably right about that.
I once sent a book of mine to Joe Bob Briggs only to have him give it away on his web site. Tacky.
While it is true that I write for money, in the case of this page the only money comes from those ads you haven’t been clicking on. I have no idea what those ads will be, by the way. They are served automatically by IDG Technet, which sends me each month a check that is pitifully smaller than I was led to believe it would be.
If you want to suggest a topic to me and accompany that suggestion with a gift or a check, it pretty much guarantees I won’t write about what you want me to. This is all part of my reverse psychology plan to get Microsoft to pay me $1 million to never write anything about them again. So far that strategy is not working.
Bear Stearns (remember them?) once offered me money to participate in a conference call with their customers. I had done such a call before for free to talk about my Google shipping container data center column but felt too much like a talking dog and didn’t want to do it again. So they offered money. I said “no.” And of course Bear Stearns is now dead. So be careful what you ask of me.
I write for other publications like the New York Times and they pay me, but so far that pay is not from vendors except in the case of Perforce Software, where I write a column for their company newsletter. But I’ve never written about Perforce here. Until now that is. Does that mean the FTC will now arrest me specifically because of this disclosure? Sounds like a Star Trek episode.
Most of my income actually comes from giving speeches and participating in events like brainstorming sessions, many of which happen at companies I have written about. Often I learn things at these events that are worth writing about, though strictly within the bounds of whatever non-disclosure agreement I’ve signed (violate NDA = wife takes kids and leaves). So in this sense I do take money from companies I might write about. But the companies never give me money specifically to write (except for Perforce, above) and they often don’t like at all what I end up writing. Screw ‘em.
The FTC rules say nothing about giving speeches or selling one-page screenplays for $2 million. If they expand the rules in that direction, of course, I may yet be in trouble.
In that case there’s always pizza delivery.