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Art the Blogger: Confession - Procuring Projectors and Blogging

Greetings all, fun time - forgive, a short rant, since I am offended!   Our government, you may not know passed a law requiring me as a blogger to provide a level of information on my activities that they wouldn't dare ask a teacher or doctor. As some may know the Federal government does regulate bloggers. (It's only one of many first little steps on the way to controlling the media, you know, getting a headstart on 1984, just a little late).  I must disclose that I get occasional deals from manufacturers.  There!  Shocked?  And I get "freebies" too.  Jail time? There, know you know, far, far more about my blog as a business, than the thousands of fed regulators assigned to the big banks,  and Fannie, Freddie, and AIG, ever knew about what was going on.  I mean their job was to keep an eye on things, clueless. Well, all those fed auditors and regulators (of banks, insurance, stock markets),still have their jobs, none fired.  Hey, they may be even harder to fire than school teachers with 20 years tenure.  (Unless they look at some file on a celebrity, that they're not supposed to... that's apparently even a fireable offense at the federal level.) Hmm, I wonder if the government will hire 20,000 regulators to monitor us bloggers every move - which means they'll do nothing, get fat pensions, and we'll have wasted our time. But, enough of the political silliness. Here's the skinny: Most manufacturers (I assume) will offer me the same discounts on projectors that they offer dealer personnel. Apparently the government figures that any blogger having written anything on the internet, who has ever received a discount on related equipment or services, is required by law to divulge such things.  I'm not sure if the Feds are looking for extra stuff to tax, or just to be a pain in the butt.  Well, doesn't really matter.  I shouldn't plead the 5th, so I better confess.  I do! As a reviewer, and employee of Projector Reviews, Inc, apparently no one is required to report what I buy or use, or what price I paid.  But, because I'm also a blogger, it's now everyone's business. Welcome! But first - the thing is:  My blog is part of Projector Reviews, Inc.  In the past, it was a sole proprietorship.  My needs for equipment are for the company - Projector Reviews, Inc.  I don't need or get additional equipment because of the blog. In fact, going forward, the company will no doubt equip the room.  Everything I use is needed for the core this point, any new projectors and equipment purchased, to be used in the testing room and the viewing theater, will be owned by the company, rather than by me, individually.  I'm not sure what that means, re this disclosure, but I figure that it apparently makes a difference to someone somewhere, that, if, say, I buy a new Sony receiver for $1500, whether the check is from Art, or from Projector Reviews, Inc.   I'll let the lawyers figure that one out.  So, here goes - how it works: 1.  I get discounts on almost everything I buy.  Hey, even when I buy things not related, I get discounts.  I don't like paying retail. I may have to pay retail when it comes time to buy some yogurt at the supermarket, but not when buying a car, a projector, or even a piece of furniture.  I love to negotiate.  I avoid places where I can't. So, here goes, relating to business: 2.  Over the years, I have bought a number of projectors for my business use, which in my case, means using them extensively in both of my rooms - the official "theater"  viewing room and the smaller, but equally important testing room.  The last projector purchased was my JVC RS20.  I certainly can tell you that I have paid 50% or more of MSRP on every projector I have purchased. At any given moment, I have here, at my disposal, between 5 and 15 projectors sent in by manufacturers for evaluation and review.  Actually I have no compelling need to own my own projector (though I do), because I always have excellent ones here. Most likely, these manufacturers offer me the same discount they offer the sales guy who just recommended that same projector to you, the difference being he, she, or it, doesn't have to divulge that they got a discount, just us "unofficial press"  (BTW, when I write reviews, not blogs, I'm regular press and not required to confess, seems the regular press (that includes Fox and NBC, CNN and the NYT), are just too honest, unbiased, and perfectly balanced, never putting forth their agenda in the guise of news.     I'm a little unclear why the government thinks that I, as a blogger am less ethical than writers at the New York Times, The National Enquirer, and Motor Trend.  Annoying. Next.  Over the years, I have owned home theater projectors from three major brands.  All have offered fairly comparable discounts.  I have never asked any other projector manufacturers as to what their discount might be.  That makes sense, because I only buy projectors I really like.   I blog, because I'm an enthusiast.   My credibility with readers is established by what I write.   If I start promoting a piece of junk because I could get one for free, or 90% off, then in no time, I'd have 10,000 "forum" type enthusiasts, all over my case.   Unlike print, where there is virtually no market mechanism to assure honesty, there is one online. Our site's success and growth has always been tied to our street cred, with the hard core enthusiasts who "live" on some of the forums.  Referral traffic from the forums, is only second to search engines, in terms of where our traffic comes from.  As long as we're deemed both honest and credible, the traffic continues, which means we rank well on the search engines.  If our referrals start dropping from the industry forums, well, our rankings on google won't be far behind.  Bottom line, recommending products that don't deserve it, is the easiest way to put out of business. Kapisch? BTW, Bottom line, every two or so years, Projector Reviews tends to buy a new projector for the primary theater as my reference projector.   We get a discount, if I preferred a different projector, I'd probably get a similar discount).   Because I do get a nice discount, I can afford a better projector than otherwise, which means I can do my job better by having a better reference projector to compare the others to. Next - accessories - Screens. I don't pay for screens.  I've got piles of them here, I've thrown out several.  In all my years of reviewing, only twice has a screen manufacturer asked for a screen back and in both cases, a unique, niche type, of very expensive screen.   The thing about screens - they come in so many variations that for a manufacturer, its a waste of time to get them back and try to sell them.  For example my motorized Stewart Firehawk screen - it's an odd size - 128", it's got an odd amount of black drop material (19"  (I think) instead of the usual 12, and it uses one of more than 10 surfaces the company offers.  Theoretically Steward offers more than 1 billion screen combinations... Chances of finding a buyer for mine   "used"- for them, is unlikely.   So, they send them for review, and they sit around here.  At latest count, I've got 3 mounted screens and 6 just sitting around,  3 went to the landfill last year.  Those extras provide no benefit.  They just sit in the garage, in case a manufacturer changes their mind and want's them back. In our industry, most screen manufacturers will provide us with whatever screens I need for my two rooms.  This is a courtesy most of the companies offer to legit press.  I would not qualify as a blogger, but Projector Reviews does.   With our recent move, (late 2010), two new rooms - another Theater 1, and another Testing Room.  One of three new screens has already arrived and has been mounted.  Why do they give them to us?  Well here we frequently mention the gear we're using - that's half the point.  Describing how a projector looks in a room, with certain lighting depends on the type of screen.  I mention the screens I use, and why, they or others might work best for my readers' room and conditions) in every review.   The manufacturers like that.  The print magazines do the same - listing all their gear.. As always, though, I will select the products that will do the best job, since relative cost will not be an issue.  When you read I'm using a Stewart Firehawk, or a Carada BW, or a dual masking Studiotek 130/3D surface, a Da-lite, or a Vutec, it is not because I got a better deal on that brand, but, because that is the screen is what the job calls for. Other accessories.  Cables, extenders, etc.   Mostly companies offer me dealer cost.  My company also purchases some stuff from one industry distributor.  We expense and pay sales tax on that stuff too!  Nothing shocking. For example, I use some cables, and a number of switchers from Gefen.  I pay their normal dealer price, they do not give me anything special to my knowledge.  I've asked for free cables, but they keep charging me.  Darn.  I also buy cables directly from distributors when practical.  If they are used for the two theaters, they are expensed, like any other low cost item, as is proper. Blu-ray players - I've got 2 Sony PS3's bought from retail stores like Best Buy.  I've got a Panasonic 3D Blu-ray player, which I also bought at Best Buy, and normal store prices (arrgh). Pico projectors - hmm, some ask for them back, but last year 2 companies didn't care.   I felt the same way.  I have no use for one on any basis, and if I did, well there's always going to be one or two newer better ones around, awaiting review.   They are gathering dust until the manufacturer's arrange for a pickup.  Be damned if I'm going to spend my $20 to 2nd day a pico projector back to a company that doesn't want it.  Eventually, they'll end up in the trash or maybe my daughter will make a sculpture including them, and some nuts and bolts.  This year, don't know, as we're still working on them, but no one has asked for one back, except the LG HX300G, and that because it was borrowed from a dealer, not the manufacturer. I have an AV receiver.  Due to be replaced, but purchased years ago, a Marantz THX cert AV receiver.  I bought that one back when I was a dealer, not press, so I guess that doesn't count. And that folks is what I own. One more thing...  remember that rant at the top...   I've got to tell you all about any "deals" etc.  But, when you go visit a doctor, how come he/she doesn't have to reveal how many samples they get, how many lunches and trips, etc. they receive from the Pharmaceutical companies.  Shouldn't all of that - to be fair to bloggers - have to be posted in the waiting room of the doctor's offices.   Also which insurance companies give them the highest reimbursements... See what I mean.  All silliness!  -art PS.  I still don't know if I'm going to replace our RS20 (hi IRS)

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