Do I quote vendors in articles?

(Image courtesy Geralt via Pixabay.)

This question has been coming up a lot lately, and there’s a whole speech I give about this, so I thought I’d write it down and just refer people to this post.

It’s a topic right now because in the last few months all of the enterprise IT publications I write for have decided to minimize vendor quotes in articles. Some have had this policy for a while, for others it’s new, but it is now across the board.

Instead, they want me to quote enterprise users, preferably at non-tech companies, about how they use the technology I’m writing about.

Or they want me to quote independent experts, analysts, researchers, academics, folks at think tanks, or people representing industry groups.

But there are still times when I quote vendors. Here they are:

1. When vendors are needed to explain a technology use case

If I talk to a customer of, say, Tech-R-Us, and the customer can tell me how they use the product or service but can’t explain how the technology itself works, I might quote an expert from Tech-R-Us to explain the tech.

Depending on how important it is to the story, and the final length, the editors may or may not leave in those quotes.

2. When vendors are experts in something

If a vendor has a research arm that, say, finds a new type of malware or can talk to me about trends that they’re seeing on their networks that are of general audience interest, I can quote someone from that vendor as an expert.

So, for example, I’ll talk to Verizon’s DBIR researchers about the latest malware threats. Or I might talk to a telecom or an SD-WAN company about the increase in usage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. When a vendor has a survey

A lot of vendors sponsor research reports, and as long as the point of the research is to provide a vendor-neutral view of an important trend — and not, say, to convince people to buy their product — then I want to see it, and I might want to the talk to the researcher about the data and what it means.

I will also link to the research report, including if it’s to a landing page that offers a free report in return for users signing up for a mailing list.

4. When a vendor source has a second job as an expert

Sometimes, a Tech-R-Us employee might also be an IEEE expert, a professor at a university, head of an industry committee or working group, or have a key role at a professional organization.

I can quote them as representing that other organization. Their affiliation with Tech-R-Us may or may not be included in the story, depending on how the copydesk feels that day.

5. When vendors are themselves users

Vendors buy tech, too. While my priority is for users at non-tech companies, if I have problems finding customers to talk — often the case with cybersecurity stories, for example — I can talk to a technology vendor that is using that product. So, say, I might quote a networking vendor about how they decided to switch firewall vendors, or a firewall vendor about how they’re using new AI-powered analytics.

But if my story already has, say, three non-tech company users, the copyeditor might decide to cut the section with the user from Tech-R-Us for the sake of the length, readability, or flow of the story.