A Subscriber Phone Call: ‘You’re Compromising Your Credibility’


It was a very uncomfortable phone call. The caller? A longtime subscriber to Strata-gee.com’s newsletter, who is also a fairly well-known industry personality. He was passionate. He was adamant. He was fired-up. We had blown it – he told editor Ted Green – and in so doing, had called our very credibility into question.

How had we blown it? See more below…

The phone call took place several weeks ago in early September. It was – we thought – a typical Thursday morning and only a few hours after the normal distribution of that week’s Strata-gee SYNCH newsletter. One article in that issue caught this reader’s attention – and apparently, his dismay. And he intended to let us hear his thoughts on it…in a forceful manner.

You see, this loyal reader had just read a story that, in his opinion, conflicted with everything he felt that Strata-gee.com had stood for – balance, independence, directness, and honesty. With this one early September post, it was all – he felt – thrown out the window.

A harmless post?…

The story was – to us at least – a harmless post about a product we had learned about that interested us. The point of the post…which had apparently not shown through as much as we thought…was that innovation doesn’t have to be a huge thing – it can be a small thing.

As many of you know – I follow innovation as one of my primary “beats.” And frankly, it has been a tough one to follow lately. Why? So many companies in our industry have fallen into incrementalism – taking last year’s model and adding a new color, or a small new feature and calling it this year’s new model.

Probably one of the byproducts of a challenging economy causing companies to become over-cautious – or an indication that we’re running out of ideas – whatever the reason, real innovation is hard to come by. In response, companies take the “safe route” by advancing their lines incrementally – rather than invest in significant new ventures or categories.

A big mouth…

Photo of Big Mouth Payout bulk wire box

ICE Cable’s Big Mouth Payout bulk wire box
(Click to enlarge)

The primary source of the post that this reader called into question was an announcement from ICE Cable about a new pull box design they called the Big Mouth Payout box. We thought it was a great example of innovation that was of the smaller but significant we-make-your-life-easier variety…if not the much bigger we-cured-cancer type.

But our reader felt it was a screaming pink neon sign that Strata-gee.com had sold out. It appeared obvious to him that this was a “paid placement” by ICE Cable…and we were remiss in not disclosing that fact…rendering our credibility in tatters.

But there’s just one problem…

But there was just one problem with his position: We didn’t disclose ICE Cable’s payoff to us because – quite simply – they hadn’t paid us off. It was alarming (and a little insulting, to be honest) to hear that ANYONE read our post and concluded we were taking money under the table…let alone a long time supportive reader.

For this reason, we feel the need to set the record straight so you can continue to read Strata-gee.com posts with confidence…and assurance that they represent our TRUE opinion.

Our “Do Not” ethical commitments…

  • We DO NOT – under ANY circumstances – accept payment for stories…positive or otherwise.
  • We DO NOT agree in advance to provide positive reviews in order to get free review samples.
  • We DO NOT pull reviews that are going to be negative.
  • We DO NOT provide draft copy of stories to interviewees or companies to review pre-publication… They see it – when you see it.
  • We DO NOT change stories UNLESS there is a substantial error in them that is independently verifiable.
  • We DO NOT publish stories without a minimum of at least two independent (and completely unrelated) sources…preferably more.
  • We DO NOT reveal sources that request anonymity…even when we are threatened by story subjects to do so.
  • We DO NOT intentionally hide any potential conflicts of interest. Where we’ve identified conflicts – or potential conflicts – we disclose them.
  • We DO NOT pay or otherwise offer any form of “quid pro quo” for news or “scoops.” When we break a scoop (something we’ve been fortunate to be able to do fairly regularly), it’s done through diligence, hard work, good connections, and frequently…luck.
  • We DO NOT offer advertisers ANY advantage over non-advertisers…no special “features”…no premium treatment in stories, no enhanced coverage, or any special emphasis.
  • We DO NOT attempt to “editorialize” or otherwise distort or misrepresent the “look,” “feel,” or “impact” of a story by publishing leading or misleading photos, graphics, or images.

Our goal…Photo of balanced rocks

Our goal is to fairly and faithfully present stories we’ve uncovered in manner that we believe represents the honest truth of the matter. We look for innovation. We look for the strategies companies employ. AND we look for MORE of the story.

Many companies want us to run their press releases. These companies would be perfectly happy if our editor would just “rearrange the deck chairs” by taking their carefully crafted (and usually unrealistically positive) press release and shifting the words around and then run it under our banner.

Looking for more…

But we believe our readers are looking for more. So we try to dig deeper to get the other side of the story…or at least, the full story. When we find material that tends to conflict with the release – and we’re able to confirm it – we add it to the story.

Sometimes, companies get angry with us for this. They look past any positive elements in our stories and react strongly to the material that they deem to be “negative” to their position.

Battle of good vs evil?…

But we don’t view it as a conflict between positives and negatives…or good vs. evil. We don’t believe our mission is pump up the market. We are just looking for the whole story.

So we would never just create an all-positive story to promote some product or technology. Nor would we create bogus negative elements to falsely attempt to present a “balanced” perspective.

TRUE STORY: We have been criticized by an editor of a well-known industry trade magazine for failing to “promote” 3D HDTV. We don’t view it as our job to be a “rah-rah” industry promoter. Our job is to give our readers what we believe is the straight scoop.

Our honest opinion…

And our story on ICE Cable’s Big Mouth Payout box was our honest opinion of its innovation. The good news for us is that we have retained that complaining reader – after we explained our “Do Not” commitments. But if you think we’ve violated any of the above commitments – please let us know…preferably in the Comments section of the offending article.

We really encourage you to express your thoughts on any transgressions we’ve committed in a public forum so we can demonstrate transparency by dealing with it out in the open. But if you would rather do so privately, please either call us or email us…you can find the necessary contact info on our “Contact Us” page.

A special thank-you…

And a special THANK-YOU to that complaining reader – who has asked to be kept anonymous – for calling us on the carpet – and giving us the opportunity to address his concerns. Don’t stay silent – if you feel we’ve screwed up…do us a favor: LET US KNOW!!

Oh and if you saw an article you liked – you are certainly welcome to let us know that as well!

About Ted

A sales and marketing specialist - primarily in the technology industry - I've experienced a sort of "circle of life" in business. I've been a mass merchant retailer, a specialty retailer, a specialty manufacturer, a large volume manufacturer, a distributor, and even represented sales representatives. Now the owner of a marketing company that works with a variety of businesses on improving their strategic marketing and business development - I analyze issues from all angles to develop holistic solutions.

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