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Editorial Firewall

Depending on the day I am a systems administrator, technology journalist, tech industry analyst, opinion columnist and tech marketing writer.  I write editorial content for technology magazines and, through my day job at eGeek Consulting Ltd. I write commercial content for clients.

Periodically, I am asked by commercial clients to place their content I have written for them on one of the technology magazines I write for.  This is something I cannot do.

Legally, I am bound by contract with the magazines I write for not to accept money from anyone to place content.  Additionally, I do not ultimately have control of the content itself: my editors have final say over whatever gets printed.

Even where I have a regular column with minimal editorial oversight I am ethically bound to uphold an editorial firewall between commercial clients and my work writing for technology magazines.  Technology magazines, like any other, rely on advertising to survive.

This advertising can include display ad placement, thought leadership programs, webinars run by the publisher and so forth.  A strict firewall has to be maintained between the commercial side of the house that brings in revenue and the editorial side of the house that seeks to uncover and report on the truth.

Maintaining that firewall – and more importantly what I feel is my moral and ethical duty to the truth – is more important to me than winning a single commercial contract.

In an effort to clear up some common questions, I would like to be crystal clear about a few things:

1)  I, as a writer for eGeek Consulting Ltd. cannot and will not accept payment directly from anyone to place content on any of the publications I write for.

2)  I, as a writer for any of the commercial content houses that I subcontract to, cannot and will not accept payment directly from anyone to place content on any of the publications I work for.

3)  I may be selected by the editor of the publications I write for to write thought leadership pieces that are part of a commercial agreement between a publication I write for and a vendor.  Where this is the case it should be noted that the publisher sells the basic outline and topic of a thought leadership program to the vendor, but the editor is responsible for vetting the article topics and selecting the writers.  The goal is to have the writers write their opinion pieces freely, without influence from the vendor.

4)  I am happy to help my clients develop content programs and share my knowledge of the commercial content programs that various publications engage in, but I cannot participate directly in the ideation stage for individual content pieces on behalf of the customer if I am potentially going to be one of the writers.

5)  Where there is the potential for both editorial and commercial interaction with a vendor, other members of the team at eGeek Consulting Ltd. will handle the commercial side of the relationship, either handling topic ideation for the vendor/publisher or commercial content creation for the vendor.

6)  I may be asked by my editor, at their sole discretion to create a “pitch list” of ideas that they would then review, modify and present to an interested vendor.  In this case, I will get a very generic topic – for example “6 article topics about 10 gigabit Ethernet” – and will set about doing my best to come up with topics that are relevant to my readers.  These topics may or may not be relevant to the vendor’s original request to the publisher, but as the editor is serving as a firewall between the vendor and my ideas, I’ll never know.  I may or may not be the writer asked to write articles based on the ideas I pitched; that’s up to the editor at their sole discretion.

7)  If a vendor is a commercial client of mine, and I write about them in an editorial fashion for a technology magazine, this will be mentioned inline or in a footnote to any article I write about them.  This is to ensure that any potential conflicts of interest are disclosed.

The reason for all of the above is to remove the incentive for me, as a writer, to be nice to vendors that are my clients.  When I write for a technology publication it is my job to be a hardassed, no-holds-barred analyst. I have no small amount of professional pride in being willing to tear into any vendor, regardless of any prior experiences I may have had with them.

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