Given Derek’s excellent post about conflicts of interest in the fashion media industry, I thought I’d elaborate on our editorial policies a little.
The basics: we work really hard to behave in a way that encourages and allows you to trust us. We believe really strongly in editorial independence, even if we can’t quite afford to hire a business guy or lady to literally separate editorial and business. So we have some simple, clear policies.
We do not write or publish sponsored posts, or include sponsored content in our editorial posts.
We return or donate to charity all review garments.
We disclose when we write about an advertiser.
We don’t let our business relationships get in the way of our editorial objectivity.
These have been our policies since the beginning, with the exception of our review garment policy, which we changed six months or so ago. Used to be we just disclosed whether something was provided to us for review, now we actually physically return or donate it, simply because we were seeing so many fluff reviews on menswear blogs that seemed to reflect an interest in free clothes over editorial judgement.
Ads & the Best Firewall We Can Build For Now
At the moment, we simply don’t have the revenue to hire a separate employee to handle ads and revenue. I do some of it, Derek does some of it, and my MaximumFun.org colleague Jennifer Marmor does some of it. This is a part-time job for all of us, so we have to rely on our personal integrity and some structural stuff to keep our content untainted and our site useful to you.
We very rarely actively sell our advertising - we respond to inquiries with a standard rate card. It works great for us, and we’re mostly sold out for months into the future. If we happen to be writing something that might include an advertiser’s products, we always mention they’re an advertiser, and we have absolutely no compunction about absolute honesty. Derek, Pete and I consider it a matter of personal integrity not to allow our editorial judgement to be tainted. We take it seriously.
We also strive to have advertising on the site that isn’t annoying. No animation, no sound, simple images, simple links, nothing crazy ugly. Just a portion of one sidebar, nothing between posts, and certainly nothing that covers up content or has to be clicked off. We think you prefer to support businesses that respect you and your relationship with our content.
Affiliate Links and Pseudo-Ads
The only affiliate links we use are very, very occasional Amazon links, and eBay affiliate links in our eBay roundups. We’re comfortable with the eBay links because our roundups were a regular feature years before we even knew there was an eBay affiliate program. We love those posts editorially, and we’re happy to accept incidental money for them. The Amazon links I put in when I remember - usually it’s a book or something.
When writing about invite-only sites (like, say, Gilt), we do sometimes offer invites, and those have credit kickbacks. Obviously, we always write something like, “if you need an invite, you can use ours.” The amounts involved are pretty modest.
"Our Beloved Sponsors" Posts
Twice a month, we write an advertiser thank-you post. These are clearly labeled, and do not include editorial content. They include factual descriptions of the companies who advertise and what they’re offering. No reviews, no judgements, no calls-to-action. We include these posts in our advertising packages because we think it’s important to offer our advertisers the chance to reach our 300,000+ subscribers on Tumblr and ~100K RSS subscribers. And of course because we are genuinely grateful to have sponsors.
Our Own Products
Occasionally, we offer our own products for sale. Obviously, this includes the Gentlemen’s Association and our pocket squares, our ballcaps and our sort-of-annual White Tee group buy. We make money on all this stuff, and of course endorse it - I mean, we make it. I think all of this is clearly disclosed. Our primary business is creating editorial. This is a fun thing we do on the side.
What We Wish Everyone Would Do
Several people have asked me questions along these lines: “How do I know if I can trust a media source, if so many people are tainted?”
The main thing I’d suggest is to ask them if they have a policy. If they don’t, they should. If they do, read it. Does it make sense to you?
What I don’t want is for you to write off all media. That’s the classic reality TV dilemma - the consumer saying, “well, it’s all fake!” means that someone who’s trying to be anything other than fake loses. Push for a more responsible fashion media, not a less responsible one.