I’m going to expand here on an exchange that was sparked in the comments section of the online version of a WDJ article that was posted recently. The article described each of the most effective pesticides and oral medications for dogs that either repel or kill fleas and ticks. One reader wanted to know whether we receive any compensation from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for consideration of their products.
I replied, a bit defensively (due to the use of the word “kickbacks”), that, no, we don’t receive anything in exchange for editorial consideration. The reader wrote back to clarify that he was just trying to determine whether there was any sort of financial consideration or relationship between our publisher or editorial department and the companies whose products we write about. I appreciated his clarification. My short answer is “No!” – and if you’ll forgive me, here’s a longer answer:
Neither the publisher nor I accept any sort of incentives to write about any company or its products.
Very recently, the folks at our publishing headquarters in Connecticut made the decision to offer affiliate links to products that appear in our “Approved Foods” lists or product reviews, as a way to both make it easier for our readers to find and purchase those products if they wish, and to help defray the cost of building and maintaining our new searchable database of approved foods. “Network ads,” which are generated by something to do with Google, may also appear on this website. I’m not sure there are any publishers still in business who are not taking these tacks today, in order to help offset postal and print-industry cost increases. But as WDJ’s editor, working from my home in California, I have no involvement with any of that. Those efforts are siloed far from me.
WDJ’s publisher was founded more than 40 years ago with first one, than an increasing number, of consumer-supported periodicals that eschewed advertising. Founded on the Consumer Reports model, the idea behind each publication was to give readers independent reviews of products and services and technical information from experts in the field, free of any advertising considerations whatsoever. The publisher felt that readers would find enough value in publications that “tell it like it is” – not hedging or holding back in reviews out of concern of losing a chunk of advertising income – that they would gladly pay subscription fees for those publications on an ongoing basis.
When I was hired to edit the inaugural issue of Whole Dog Journal more than 25 years ago, I couldn’t be more excited. I had worked part-time for a predecessor, Whole Horse Journal, which had been purchased by Belvoir from a friend. I was aware of Belvoir’s consumer-oriented approach and was thrilled for an opportunity to shine a light on products and practices that are demonstrably in the best interests of dogs – as opposed to anyone with a dog-related business who will give us advertising money. There can be no more fulfilling job for a journalist than to be allowed to research and write articles without ever having to “pull a punch” out of concern that one of our advertisers might withdraw their support and threaten our ability to continue publication. None of that has changed. I still feel honored to enjoy complete editorial independence from the constraints of influence of advertisers.
Over the years, in order to learn more about the production of dog food, I’ve asked various dog food makers whether I could come see their manufacturing facilities and talk to their formulators. In this way, I’ve been able to tour food production plants operated by WellPet, Hill’s, Diamond, The Honest Kitchen, Champion, Breeder’s Choice, Lotus, and a few more (including some that are no longer in business or that were purchased by other companies, including Iams/Eukanuba and Natura). Some of those companies offered to fly me to their manufacturing cities, pay for my hotel, and more. But Belvoir would never allow such a thing; the most I could (or would) accept on these trips is a meal or two.
Sometimes, pet product manufacturers send products to me, unsolicited and unannounced (ask me sometime about the box of frozen dog food that was sent to me lacking ANY labels that identified it as needing refrigeration or even being food –the one that sat in a pile of other mail and unsolicited stuff for over a month, until I noticed the box was bulging in a way I hadn’t noticed previously! OMG!). If the product is one that I find I really like and think would be a useful product for other dog owners, it might find its way into a review or article at some point. If I find the product to be without value or use, I tend to not respond to the sender. Either way, all products eventually get donated to my local shelter or given to friends or family who might be able to use them.
I’ve never received products from any of the big pharmaceutical companies – and come to think of it, I don’t receive even unsolicited literature from them. I suspect they don’t think they need our support or interest.