In my time as a journalist, I worked to avoid conflicts that would give the appearance of favoritism in my writing. This page detailed the steps I took and disclosures I felt worth highlighting. While I’m no longer a working journalist, I thought it would be useful to still outline some of those past steps as well as highlight anything relevant to my current role with Google.
As a Google employee, I have an obvious interest in the company.
Third Door Media
I have shares in Third Door Media, a company I cofounded in 2006. I left the company as a board member and employee when I retired from search journalism in June 2017; I stepped down as an advisor when I joined Google in October 2017.
TDM produces a publication and conference around search marketing. I pledge to treat those, to the degree I deal with any search marketing publications or events, no differently than others.
Consultancy on hold
I have my own long-standing consultancy, Calafia Consulting. I no longer take on projects — not that I was doing much, anyway.
My consultancy started as a home for my freelance writing, SEO work and general consulting. As my job as search journalist grew, I dropped on-going SEO projects around 1999. I’ve did that so both the search engines I covered and the search engine optimization industry didn’t feel I was trying to push a particular viewpoint.
No past consulting with search companies
To avoid potential conflicts with coverage, I wouldn’t consult with any of the search engines I covered or search-related companies.
An exception was that I offered legal advice or served as an expert witness on some search engine-related cases. One involved speaking on behalf of a search engine, in the Playboy vs. Excite & Netscape case.
I disagreed with Playboy’s view that the linking of banner advertisements to keywords should be prevented. I was also concerned that should this type of advertising be prevented, search engines would be less viable — which impacts the entire internet. It was an important case, and the way search engines operate needed to be clearly explained.
Given this, after long debate, I did agree to serve as an expert witness on behalf of Excite and Netscape. It went against my policy of consulting with search engines; however, my consultation work was really with the legal firm representing Excite and Netscape. In addition, I felt I was helping to defend the entire search engine industry, rather than a particular company. I did not let this expert witness work influence my other coverage of either Excite or Netscape.
As a side note, I’ve also worked for Playboy, in a sense, when I was invited to contribute a letter for the December 4, 2004 edition in reaction to a large piece they wrote about Google.
No payment for coverage
I never accepted payment from companies for any type of coverage, not my personal blog, not in my professional writings, not anywhere.
I didn’t handle ads or sponsorships
I didn’t handle the advertising or sponsorship activities for any of the publishers I worked for, nor allowed them to influence editorial decisions.
Previously, no search stocks or investments
Until joining Google, I had no interest or stock in any search-related company (unless they were part of mutual index funds I own through my retirement program).
Swag & travel
As a journalist, I routinely visited the offices of major technology companies for interviews or events. It was not uncommon for me or attendees of events generally to be given a T-shirt, jacket, promotional bag or other token that might be given to any visitor. I accepted these and didn’t let them influence my coverage.
I never accepted travel coverage for events in my twenty-one years covering technology companies except for:
- A Google press event in Paris in 2007, where all press had hotel rooms covered. I paid my own travel from the UK, where I was based at the time
- The Google Zeitgeist partners conference that attended in 2010 and 2011, where my room like that of all attendees was paid for; I covered my own flight on both occasions.
- Hotel and/or transportation reimbursement to speak at both Microsoft and Google on maybe five occasions in total. Both wanted me to talk with search teams and share thoughts. There were no other trips I could combine with these, so I accepted reimbursement. I never accepted any payment to speak at such events.
Over the years, I received many gadgets and review devices. For example, I received a Nexus One at Google’s launch event. I received an HTC Windows Phone at a Microsoft event. I received a Galaxy Note 8 tablet from Samsung.
My policy with such devices was simple: I never used anything I received on an on-going basis, unless my company bought it.
IE, I wouldn’t accept a phone and then use it on a regular basis. I might keep a review unit to have it as a reference device, which was very useful when trying to understand a particular OS change. But my main work devices, those were never review devices.
Here on my personal blog, I occasionally have affiliate links, primarily for products I’ve written about that might also be sold via Amazon. It’s interesting for me to see how the Amazon system works. It also produces a tiny bit of revenue for the site. I don’t add these links to anything I wouldn’t have mentioned anyway, and I usually do call them out as affiliate links in some way, when I do.
I also have ads from Google AdSense. As with the Amazon links, this is primarily to see how the system work. Part of my previous job sometimes involved understanding self-serve display ad systems for publishers. The ads here gave me a first-hand test bed. The produce no significant income for me. I keep them running because it’s still interesting and helpful to see the AdSense system working first-hand.