[SOUNDSTAGE!] Our No E-Commerce Here Policy
affects all sites operated by
Schneider Publishing Inc. including
SoundStage!, SoundStage! LIVE,
SoundStage! Magazine, AudioVideoNews,
GoodSound
and A/V Gateway


 

OUR NO E-COMMERCE HERE POLICY

Why we have a policy

With the explosive growth of the Internet, the online selling of goods and services is one of the current hot topics, and e-commerce will have one of the largest impacts on the Internet industry over the next couple of years. While we at SoundStage! are all for e-tailers, or whatever you want to call e-commerce-based companies that sell products such as audio and video equipment over the Internet, a disturbing trend has also begun, one that will harm this practice: mixing editorial content, or e-content, with e-commerce. Currently, there are websites (and there will be more of them) that offer product reviews and articles aimed at enlightening consumers yet actually make money by supporting the products the sites sell. Does this new model for business offer impartial information to consumers? The answer is obviously NO. And that is precisely why SoundStage!, the largest online publication in the consumer-electronics field, and all of our affiliated sites have a No E-Commerce Policy.

This practice of mixing content with selling can be described with a few commonly understood words: conflict of interest. How can any business whose means of survival is selling products give a fair, honest and unbiased accounting of those products in the form of reviews? If a website performing a review must move the product written about or risk having it sit idle, the spirit of the review is breached. Is there any choice as to what the review has to say? On the other hand, if the site doesn’t sell a particular product or brand sold elsewhere, they likely have a competing brand that will substitute quite nicely. Again, is there any real doubt as to what the desirable outcome of the review is? If money is to be made, then there seems to be no choice but to find a way to ensure that the customer ends up buying a product the website sells. The website wins, at least for now, but the consumer loses in a big way.

Will e-commerce/e-content sites last?

E-commerce/e-tailing sites that operate this way will have a short life-span. This attempted business practice will have a life cycle of perhaps a year or maybe even two years before the people behind these sites figure out that this model simply cannot work. It has never worked for print magazines, and you can be sure it won’t work on the Internet. However, in that time tremendous damage will have been done. Consumers, not realizing these sites’ intentions, may take their information at face value and be duped. Dealers, whether conventional or online, who attempt to do an honest job by simply sticking to e-tailing may be irreparably harmed and not be around a couple years down the road. And manufacturers who put their trust in sites that offer e-commerce and e-content will be left dangling when the site fails and goes by the wayside. In the long term, everyone loses.

Any way you look at it, the Internet does not offer a new kind of business ethics. There is no place in the world for a business that attempts to mix supposedly unbiased information with retail sales. However, this is not to say that someone will not try anyway. After all, it is happening today, and we will see more of it in the future. When we first heard of this practice, we joked that pretty soon manufacturers would simply offer their own information-and-review sites to sell their own products. Scary thought? Not scary enough it seems. We know there is a site owned and operated by a manufacturer! Yes, it seems they will be providing product review content and selling products. Many other sites are planning their debuts before the end of the year. As they say, buyer beware.

Our stand

Because we feel that this is an important issue, we wanted to take a stand. We would like to state clearly and explicitly that we have NO intention of selling any products online -- so consider this an e-commerce-free zone. However, there is one exception. We do sell our official SoundStage! shirt, but we can assure you that we will never be reviewing clothing of any type in our pages. We may offer a different style of shirt soon and even offer baseball caps too. But other than these items, we’re leaving retailing to others. For consumers we offer a sound piece of advice worth adhering to. If one comes to a site and can select a Shopping Cart and browse product reviews written by that site's authors, then it's your right to start asking questions about their motives.

Our goal is to provide honest and unbiased information in our reviews, columns and feature articles. In the long term, we have no doubt that this strategy is the right one. In the meantime, we ask all readers to scrutinize the websites from which they get their information. And we ask manufacturers to question whether they feel comfortable doing business with e-commerce sites that offer editorial content, particularly reviews of products the company who owns the site provides. Seems like a no-brainer to us.

Yours truly,

Doug Schneider
Schneider Publishing Inc.
das@soundstage.com

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