Thank you Charlotte (our managing editor) for that last post and MM you don't sound like a grump at all and I'm always happy to discuss!
My background is consumer magazine publishing and this is exactly the sort of issue that magazines have been dealing with for years.
Let me explain but first let me clarify that we WON'T recommend a company because they are a partner.
I'll say it again in case there is any doubt, we DON'T recommend a company because they are a partner.
What we WILL recommend is a company that we know has a great track record, our genuine users have recommended and that we understand to be well run.
Some of those will be partners, some of those won't be partners.
The ones who don't fulfil these criteria may approach us to be a partner and we will refuse. And obviously we wouldn't recommend them anyway.
The real issue here, and it's something that any consumer magazine/brand has had to face for years, is that if a brand builds up a level of editorial expertise (e.g. What Car and cars) then it's simply not possible for their staff to personally own every car upon which they print/publish an opinion.
So how do these "consumer choice" brands (What HiFi, Stuff etc) create an environment whereby a journalist may be asked for advice about a product when they haven't personally sampled it as a paying consumer? (And I used to run these brands for Haymarket
The answer is that you have to build a culture and environment within the brand whereby it's explicitly understood that the advertiser can't buy editorial and that the unbiased editorial judgement is the most important element of the brand identity.
Which is what we do here.
We know that NVN will lose users if it's not trusted and so we'd rather annoy some firms and lose a few advertising pounds rather than pander to everyone and turn into a spineless brand.
Although we don't shout about it we've been the subject of high court actions, nasty letters and in one memorable case a threat of physical violence (honestly!) because we wouldn't remove stuff that was critical of certain companies. Not one of those has ever actually gone to court which shows they're mostly bullying but it's not a nice place to be.
And that's how every trusted editorial brand I've ever worked with has managed this issue.
Having said all that it is a slightly moot point on NVN as I recommend so few products (and in the case of Ayrton our managing ed is a happy private paying customer) but it's a good opportunity to have the conversation as I'm sure other users may have thought along similar lines.
What we have to be REALLY careful about on NVN are false recommendations from false users and, as we've discussed before, we have to police the authenticity of these users very very carefully.
And...deep breath...having said all that and more it's also why we're launching a new initiative in the next few weeks (hopefully this Sunday) which will allow users to identity those firms who've been recommended by a number of genuine NVN users (we call them power users).
As before, any questions please shout.
And as always thanks for using NVN!