Let me first say thank you to all you awesome subscribers, followers, and readers for the support. You all are amazing. Thank you.
Influencers, both large and small, have a certain level of responsibility. Although testing all this tech and making videos about it is fun, at the end of the day, what I am doing is providing an opinion about a product that you may consider as you make a purchase decision. This involves not only your money, but also the jobs and livelihoods of the people producing those products.
So to be as transparent as possible, here is my philosophy with reviews surrounding my methodology, the ethics, as well as competition.
I like detail. A lot of detail.
That’s what got me into this in the first place. Although there are some very good written resources, I felt there wasn’t necessarily the same level of detail in video reviews. There’s more to it than just pining over all the details or reading off the list of features. I also wanted to know how to use the device, and how it actually performed during all of my activities.
I’m fortunate enough to have fitness as a big component of my life which made it easier to test the devices I like to test, because that’s what I already do. Now all I have to do is strap on a device and get to work, right?
Not so easy.
To provide an accurate review, you need data from numerous sources. Some of my early reviews were just comparing one device to another, but I’ll be up front: that was not ideal. You really need 3 if not 4 devices to test against to get a real comparison.
Even with multiple devices to compare, it requires much more than testing a device just once, or even twice. I try to test each “thing” I want to test at least 3 or more times, whether it’s succeeding or failing. I can’t accept one successful attempt as a completely successful test. If anything, if something is successful, I’ll probably spend even more time trying to make it fail. But the same thing goes for failure – if something fails, I am going to repeat those tests to try to make it successful, or see if I was doing something wrong. That’s just how I roll. (I may have picked up that quote from someone).
The unfortunate outcome of this method is that my reviews do not always come out in a timely manner. At this point, I have what I would call a healthy and quickly-growing base of subscribers, but not quite large enough for companies to send me products prior to launch which would provide time to test it before the actual launch date; which means it could be weeks after public release before I am able to publish a thorough review.
Hopefully that will change soon…with your help. So definitely tell your friends 😉
Do companies send me free product?
I don’t do paid reviews. I’m not saying all paid reviews are bad, but it can put a bad taste in someone’s mouth and I’d just rather avoid that.
How about sponsorships? Well, I have a slightly different thought on that which I’ll touch on more here in a second, but I do buy the majority of the stuff I review. Mainly, it’s because I’m personally interested in the product, but yes, I do get offers to review products, and I categorize these offers into 2 camps:
– There’s the kind of company that wants to send me a product to keep in exchange for a review.
– And the other kind of company that will send me a product for a review, but I have to return it after the review period.
Both of these types of companies have one goal: to leverage influencers to market their product and for the most part, they are generally ethical with their intentions.
Some companies aren’t and I avoid them. Thankfully, they are pretty easy to spot.
Although I try to purchase everything I review, it is simply not financially viable to purchase everything that I want to review, so I have and still do accept products for review. My audience has grown to a size that has gotten the attention of larger brands, for which I have to thank you for, and that’s allowed me to not have to purchase everything I actually want to review.
In these instances, the company will provide me with a product for review purposes only and then I send it back. That’s the right thing to do and something that I learned from DC Rainmaker.
Full admission: I initially did accept some free product for reviews. But it wasn’t to get the free product, it was to help build an audience by providing more content.
Take for example some budget Bluetooth speakers that I reviewed last year. I did accept them as free product, but was I less critical with my review? Nope, not one bit. Actually, I was kind of surprised that they publicized my review, as I didn’t think it was exactly positive.
I am fortunate enough to have grown to the point that larger companies are sending me products to review that I then have to return; not free to keep. And this is the policy that I will be adhering to. If a company sends me a product for a review, I will in turn send it back.
However, there are some exceptions:
• Some companies nearly insist that I keep a product or they simply do not want it back. An example would be a heart rate strap. No one wants a gross, sweaty product back. So instead, I’ll keep those devices around as reference devices for future reviews.
• The other exception is a product that was shipped from overseas. Return overseas shipping is very expensive, and I am extremely up-front during my initial communications with them that they will need to provide return shipping. If no return shipping is provided, again, I’ll keep it as a reference device but not something I would use on a regular basis. However, these situations are getting more rare.
In regards to devices that I personally use (not a product I am testing), I’ll buy that at full retail as well. Okay, well not necessarily full retail because just like you, I do try to find sales, but the unfortunate thing about the review game is that I generally have to buy products at launch, which means full retail.
What do I do with all these watches?
I’m not a watch collector, or any other device for that matter. I should probably recoup some of the money I spent on these products and sell them when I’m done but I keep them around as reference devices for future reviews. Again, I can’t just compare a new device on the market to just my daily driver.
I like to test out firmware updates to see if there are improvements to the device even after publishing a review. If a company fixes something that wasn’t great from my initial testing, I want to make sure that you all have the most up-to-date information.
I also want to be able to compare devices side-by-side which is important – especially when a new version comes out, so I can compare it with the original.
Finally, if you have a question about a device that comes up after a review is published, I want to have the device around so I can possibly answer your question. For example, with testing so many devices, I might forget how to access a certain setting, and having that device around later on can be really helpful.
This one is tricky. I am not actually opposed to sponsorships, however, I have not accepted any of the handful of offers I have received. And the reason I have not accepted those requests is because they are coming from the company that is producing the product that I would be reviewing. Translation: a paid review. I know I can be objective, but at the same time, there can always be a question, so I just choose to avoid that.
For me to accept a sponsorship it would have to come from a company that is completely unrelated to what I review. For example, SquareSpace, a company that does websites, or even D-Brand. D-Brand is a good example because it’s a product that I already use and love. They compliment what I am reviewing but has no relation to the outcome of the actual review; plus, I believe in the product so I have no problem telling my audience about it.
However, at this point, I have not accepted any money, from any company, for any opinion and do not have an plans to do so.
So, after going over free product, paid reviews and sponsorships, let me summarize my thoughts on those subjects by saying this:
I am in this for the long term. I am not here for short term payouts.
Paid reviews can be done ethically, but in my mind, as well as in many of your minds, there is always a doubt. I would much rather forego the short-term financial gain than to risk losing credibility. Credibility and integrity are things you can’t buy; they have to be earned; but more importantly, you can’t buy them back, no matter how big the paycheck.
Equal Opportunity Reviewer
All of us have preferences. One interesting comment I had early in my YouTube days that stuck with me is that “All reviewers are biased.” I think that’s somewhat true, but that’s just human nature. If none of us had a preference, we would all be eating plain rice or wheat bread our entire lives. We all have preferences one way or another.
But what IS important is to review MANY devices. You have to have perspective. If I were to only review one brand of devices, that gives no perspective on how that company’s product holds up to their competition.
This is why, although I live in an Apple ecosystem, I also test Samsung watches. The same thing could be said with Garmin vs Fitbit vs Suunto. When I review a product that is not necessarily my preference, I am not just reviewing it to say that it sucks. I am reviewing it to see what else is out there; maybe it’s actually better and could be a compelling reason for me (or you) to switch? It’s important to be well informed of everything out there.
What about products that suck?
This part is important, and I am glad you stuck around until this point.
Although I do test for failure, I want products to work. Nothing is more frustrating for all of us than something that does not work. But unfortunately, there are some sucky products out there.
I do plenty of research into not only the product but the company behind it before I consider reviewing a device. Although I do want to inform you if a product sucks, I also do not want to waste the time thoroughly testing just how bad it sucks. With that being said, if I review a product and say it sucks, it’s not to rip on the product or the company, I’m just trying to provide honest feedback to you, my subscribers. I want to inform you, so you can make an informed purchase decision.
Hopefully the company will embrace that feedback as well and use it to improve the product. You will rarely hear me say, “don’t buy this product”. The products I test are the ones I am actually interested in using, so my negative comments are for the company to get back to testing it themselves so they can improve it.
Here’s the thing: I want people to succeed. I want companies to succeed. Sure, there are some snake oil salesman out there but I am careful and try to avoid them.
For the most part, reputable companies are trying to put out a good product. Most have good intentions, but marketing and industry pressures can make them release a product too early, or possibly hype it up beyond what it can actually do. I will call them out for that, but it’s not my intention to say that the company is bad. It’s for them to go back and look at what could possibly be going wrong and to fix it, which will be good for everyone.
Success and the Future
It’s no surprise that influencers pay attention to their subscriber and follower numbers – it’s obviously a gauge to know whether or not you’re doing well in the public eye. But how do you know if you are doing well in the industry? Well, I think that comes down to when a big brand takes you seriously.
I’m stoked for every big milestone with YouTube, just like other influencers, but another goal of mine was to become reputable enough that larger brands reached out to me (instead of vice-versa which comes with varying success). Like I said earlier, I am still at the point where I am not being offered product before release (aside from one company that did reach out to me, but I declined for a few different reasons). I hope to be able to delete this paragraph sooner than later.
However, I will share that when the channel was at just 2,000 or so subscribers, I was contacted by a high-ranking individual at a well-known company about a well-known device. That blew me away, and I’m not saying that to brag, I’m just using that example of validation. And if anything, I need to thank you all for supporting the channel which led to that contact.
That was (and still is) a big goal: to get the attention of larger companies – NOT to get free product, but more importantly, the validation that comes along with being an actual “influencer” – a title that is still somewhat overwhelming to accept. This likely means more to me, as a measure of success, than it does to you, but with this success will come better, deeper, faster, reviews of even more products. However, if I am to accept a title, or role, as an influencer, it comes a lot of responsibility. Something that I think can be overlooked.
A recent commenter on one of my reviews said: “As soon as I watched this video I immediately went and ordered one.”
I had to sit down for a second. After processing this comment, I decided to write this post. I impacted a decision this individual was making. Whether it’s just a title or just a description, I “influenced” someone to spend their hard-earned money on a device in hopes that it will provide what that person needs.
Along with most influencers, I do have affiliate links that help me generate some income. However, my goal is not to get you to buy a product, it’s to make sure that you are buying the right product for you that’s going to be reliable and last you a long time. That’s your money, and you worked hard for it. I respect that, and do not take the role of an influencer lightly, so I promise to give you honest and well-informed information about products that I am genuinely interested in reviewing. I’m not going to review something just for clicks.
Lastly, as much as I appreciate you watching my reviews and valuing my opinion, I want you to watch (and read) plenty of other reviews. I have my style and perspective, and others have their own. If you’re only listening to my opinion, that means you’re only listening to one view point, and that’s not a great way to be informed.
All of us have different life experiences and everyone can provide a different perspective. If you’re listening to someone that says, “I’m the ONLY one that knows this” or “I’m THE expert that knows that.” Well, I’d say take that with a grain of salt, but at the same time, I still think you should watch that channel (but not JUST that channel).
Here’s what is interesting about the word “competition”: competition can help you be a better you in a lot of aspects in life. If there was no competition, becoming “better” would be a personal affair, which is definitely important; but outside competition can push you to become even better at whatever you want to improve upon, whether that’s sports, education, your job, or even YouTube.
YouTube is an interesting space where although there is technically “competition”, it’s actually a space where competition can help you grow. For instance, if I publish a review of a device that another person has already reviewed, there is a high likelihood that YouTube will recommend that person’s video directly after mine (and vice-versa). For example, another channel produced a video that was quite similar to one I did last year. My video had maybe 20K views on it after a few months, and then became stagnant. After this creator published his similar video, I got a HUGE spike in traffic. So I appreciate that competition; it actually helps me.
And this goes back to DC Rainmaker – arguably the biggest fish in the ocean (more like a lake) of fitness and sports technology reviewers. He is technically my “competition”, although one of us has a much larger head start on the other.
We provide different perspectives and different types of content, although they may be on the exact same device. He does smart trainers, power meters, action cameras, and wearables. I only cover 2, but soon to be 3, of those areas. But he’s primarily a road biker. I’m more of a mountain biker. Both of us run, but I prefer short distances and he generally does longer. He swims like fish, I sink like a brick. He focuses a lot on the technical aspects where I focus more on the experience. We both cover the actual performance of the device, just in different ways.
But here’s the thing: we get along great. We actually help each other out. (He helps me about 2000X more than I can assist him, for obvious reasons). We talk about data. We talk about how devices are performing. He’s going to push content my way and I’m going to push content his way. Although he is technically “competition”, I could not be happier to have him as what I would consider “a friend” and will support him as much as I can.
We could also even add Shane Miller (GPLama) into the mix. He does a ton of reviews on smart trainers but so does DCR. Then he expands a bit and also does a lot of content about Zwift. So there’s overlap between DCR and GPLama but those guys still have a great bromance. (I’m kind of this extremely distant third wheel on the tricycle of fitness tech cycling YouTubers or maybe the kid in the trailer?)
So I would encourage you to watch my reviews. And then go watch (or read) everyone else’s too. And then hopefully with all that knowledge you will be able to get the right device for you.
I felt this information was important to share and I very much appreciate you sticking around! If you’d like to support the channel, I have Amazon Affiliate links in nearly all my videos that you can click on if you’re shopping around for something. It comes at no extra cost to you and provides a small contribution which I appreciate greatly and will only help the channel grow.
Thanks again folks, you all are amazing!
Now, off to do some more reviews!