If we don’t make money from ads, how are we keeping the lights on?
Because CTR is a review site and we sell a publication, it is important that you ask this question. So here it goes:
I, Warren Buckleitner, am an employee of Active Learning Associates, Inc., a small, for-profit business that manages my speaking, writing activities, publishes CTR, and runs the Dust or Magic institute. (There is another Active Learning Associates, Inc. in Indiana. We have no affiliation with them; they are not affiliated with us.)
ABOUT OBJECTIVITY IN JOURNALISM AND RESEARCH
Most graduate programs in the social sciences includes extensive discussion of research methods, where you learn that a core part becoming a researcher is developing the ability to understand the vagueness of objectivity. In the social sciences, objectivity is never an absolute; rather it is a state that you work toward. It is “one of the most cherished ideals of the education research community.” (Eisner, 1992). Often times, the more unbiased a person or organization claims to be, the more biased they actually are. That’s the most damaging type of subjectivity.
No participant of a culture can be without bias. It may be as a result of the need for the next meal, or the desire to get a state-of-the-art laptop for your daughter. This bias (or subjectivity) cannot be eliminated but it must be managed. The first step is a full disclosure of potentially opinion-changing relationships.
SOURCES OF INCOME
Here’s where our income comes from:
Advance Publishing/PARADE Magazine (freelance writing)
Computer Explorers (sponsorship of LittleClickers.com)
DisneyFamily.com (for a series of articles and a TV appearance)
Scholastic Early Childhood Today
Kids @ Play Conference at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. Coordinating the one day summit. I am not involved in the selling of booth space. I am paid a flat fee from Living in Digital Times, who subcontracts with the Consumer Electronics Show.
Merideth Publishing/Parents Magazine (freelance writing)
New York University (teaching)
Scholastic Parent & Child (freelance writing)
The New York Times (freelance writing)
Thompson/Pearson Textbook Publishing Division (writing)
ADVERTISING AND SPONSORSHIP RELATIONSHIPS
In order to be a sponsor or underwriter (e.g., for research), the business partner must meet the following conditions:
• It must sell or work with competing children’s technology products.
• It must not have a vested interest, financial or otherwise, in the success or failure of any particular children’s technology product that we might assign a rating to.
• Because we have a vested interest in the Mediatech Foundation (where we test software), any hardware or cash donations must be disclosed on the Mediatech website. Mediatech finances are managed by an external accounting firm, and audited by the board of Trustees.
• If CTR content is monetized by advertising (e.g., Google Ads), the CTR staff must have no knowledge or role in the selling of the advertising. Our view of a product can’t be tainted by the worry that we might displease a potential advertiser with a negative review or less than favorable placement.
POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION
We make a conscious effort to view the products we review without regard to political, ethnic, gender or religious bias.
We don’t link our reviews to catalogs.
NEW YORK TIMES FREELANCER’S AGREEMENT
Any activity must pass the New York Times freelancers guidelines. We use these guidelines to keep out of potentially sticky situations.
OTHER ACTIVITIES SHOULD BE IDENTIFIED
I am a volunteer (non-paid) library board trustee and founder of the Mediatech Foundation, a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization located in our library. Work for Mediatech is unpaid.
PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY USE SHOULD BE DISCLOSED
I own and use both a Verizon LG and an iPhone. I purchase my own computers, cameras, phones, scanners and production software. I use both Macintosh and Windows computers on a daily basis although most product work is done on an iMac or MacBook Pro. All of my family computers are purchased, often using faculty discounts (as a sometimes college lecturer, I get a discount on hardware and software). Children’s Internet content is typically tested on a Windows computer, running Mozilla’s Firefox browser or IE.
EDITORIAL COPIES & APP CODES POLICIES SHOULD BE IN PLACE
We receive, on average, three new releases per day. When we are done with the review, the copies are archived and donated to the Mediatech Foundation, a free, public, not-for-profit technology center. CTR staff does not sell or profit from review copies. Toys, including potentially expensive robots or programming kits, are given away or donated to Mediatech Foundation. Expensive items (over $100 in value), such computers or projectors, are returned.
PROMOTIONAL ITEMS, AKA “SWAG”
It is common practice for new games to come with small promotional items that might include tote bags, hats, t-shirts, chocolates, nerf guns, posters, cooking hats, or stuffed gorillas. These items are removed by the review coordinator, and are never seen by the reviewer. Any food items, such as candy or chocolates, are put in a jar by the front door, and eaten by the UPS person or by an editor working late on a deadline. Most items are given away to the Game Testers each week.
Our employees do not own stock or serve on advisory boards in/for any company whose products might be reviewed.
We limit paid consulting to schools, libraries and education-related groups. We do not accept income from groups linked to products that we might review.
NO PAYMENT FOR QUOTES, CONTESTS, AWARD SEALS
We consider reviewing to be a research activity, and strive to make our test population as broad as possible. To this end, we try to make it very easy for any publisher, large or small, to submit us a product to review. If a product is awarded a seal or want’s to use a quote from a review, it must be published and properly referenced. It cannot be used out of context.
SPEAKING: WORKSHOPS, KEYNOTES AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
I turn down speaking opportunities where I would be paid by a company whose products I might review. I do speak to school, library or professional groups (such as Toy Fair, E3, ISTE, INPlay, Kids @ Play, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center or The Sandbox Summit) who may have corporate sponsors. I don’t know who these sponsors are, and I have no role in the selling.
Any company is welcome to visit our editorial office, on a first-come, first-served basis. These desk-side demos are common, and helpful for better understanding the industry I review. This in no way implies a less than impartial review.
LOANER EQUIPMENT (DEBUG EQUIPMENT)
There are times when you need special hardware to test a title. A debug game console can be very difficult to get, and a game hardware maker can control which media outlets have access to this hardware. We have debug units from Sony and Microsoft. This hardware is not owned by CTR, and must be returned if the company wants it. We also keep a Gateway laptop, on loan from HP, for use with testing and demonstrations. We also keep loaner handheld units — a DSi, a DS and a PSP.
We accept short term loans of hardware for training. This is non-exclusive; in other words, any company is able to send demo units, for no cost.
DUST OR MAGIC INSTITUTE
The Dust or Magic Institute is a training event that is sponsored by Active Learning Associates, the publisher of Children’s Technology Review and employer of Warren Buckleitner. The price of admission to this event is significant (as high as $1480 per seat), and this money comes from the the attendees, which includes publishers of the products we review. The number of seats available to one company are limited to no more than five, so no one company can “buy” the event, and no company is restricted from attending. No other costs are involved; there are no booth sales, ads or underwriting. You can see a list of the companies that have participated, as well as the speakers, at www.dustormagic.com.
FRIENDS WHO MAKE TECHNOLOGY PRODUCTS
Our first priority is to children. To our friends who make hardware and software products, we say: “We may like you as a person, but our personal relationship cannot get in the way of a clear view of your product.”
Last update: 5/22/11