Update: Shortly, after writing this, ScienceBlogs pulled the Pepsi Blog
Thinking about it overnight, I’m back for now. The short version is that I think the changes are sufficient, although I’m still very disappointed in Seed. Basically, the changes in presentation seem to make it clear that the blog is advertising, not Sb content–and I realize others might disagree. This isn’t a final decision on my part by a long shot. Frankly, I would much rather not have Food Frontiers at ScienceBlogs at all.
There has been a lot of verbiage flying around the intertubez about Pepsigeddon so below is my longer take on the state of things at ScienceBlogs.
I understand completely why some would leave based on this decision alone: even deadwood media understand that content is content, advertising is advertising, and the twain should not mix. If you’re a journalist, and one day you find out that you’re writing for a place which has blurred the two, I’m not sure how one could stay at all–this happened to The LA Times a few years ago. It directly affects your credibility as an independent news source. It very well might affect the credibility of the remaining bloggers–that remains to be seen. Damaging the credibility of one of its products doesn’t seem to be a good strategy.
So why do I think this happened? Ultimately, I think this stems from Seed’s and publisher Adam Bly’s desire to be in the magazine business, as opposed to the blog business (ironic, since most scientists I know recognize Sb much more frequently than Seed Magazine). This has led to neglect of the blogging side of things. Whether that’s good business or not, I don’t know (I don’t have access to the financials), but several patterns at Sb lead me to conclude that the blogs are seen solely as an adjunct to Seed Magazine–an attitude, which, over time, has hurt both the blogs and the magazine. There are very few creative and intellectual links between Seed Magazine and ScienceBlogs. There’s the occasional column by a ScienceBlogling, and a link or two (which does help drive traffic, at least for me), but that’s it. I’ve very rarely received any updates from ScienceBlogs about coming attractions in the magazine (I actually don’t remember any, but I could have forgotten some from long ago).
Hell, by Bly’s own admission, he doesn’t follow the blogs at all. As far as I can tell, ScienceBlogs, from Seed’s perspective, if not the readers’ and bloggers’, exists to drive some revenue to support the magazine–like I said, I think Seed sees itself in the magazine publishing business.
That’s Seed’s choice, because, well, it’s Seed’s business, not the bloggers’. Like I mentioned, it’s puzzling though, since ScienceBlogs seems to be higher profile than Seed Magazine, although I say that based on personal impressions and anecdote, not hard data. Either way, this hands-off, second-fiddle attitude, which is a good deal for me in many ways (I’ve never been told what to write or how to do so
much to the chagrin of my readers and probably my editors*), has led to a dedicated, but overworked ScienceBlogs staff, and problems, for some (or perhaps many), have occurred.
These really haven’t affected me, but I’ve always stated that I’m a research scientist who happens to blog–I’m not in the public communications/journalism bidness. I don’t use the blog to further my professional career or to pay the bills (the last sentence is laughable on so many levels…). If I were, I could see how certain things might get annoying to say the least.
So for now, I’m back to regular activities, although if the Pepsi blog–and that’s what I’m calling it because that’s what it is–becomes more of a problem, I’m still bailing.
*Editor is a new title; previously, the title was community manager. Make of that what you will.