An Egoistic Perspective on the Pepsiblog Debacle

i-5553e5fef282dedd523590efea7e4174-seda laskburk.jpgI reacted to the news about the Pepsiblog debacle with a cynical smirk and a sinking feeling in my stomach. Though I am interested in health-related and environmental issues, they are not at the forefront of my blogging or my professional life. Of course it hurts the Sb brand and Sb’s journalistic credibility when the Overlords sell centre-column space to an agribusiness junk-food multinational. PepsiCo would be controversial among the SciBlings even if they just advertised in the sidebar. But to someone writing mainly about Scandy archaeology, skepticism, books and music, it’s not such a big deal.

Instead, the Pepsiblog mainly interests me as an indicator of Seed Media Group’s financial solvency. And that scares me. Things have been looking pretty grim backstage here at Sb since the late-2008 credit crunch. My impression is that Sb is SMG’s one remaining cash cow, but a cow whose owner can’t really afford to feed it. To me, the Pepsiblog looks like a desperate attempt to make that cow yield a bit more milk before she’s sent to become dog food and garden fertiliser. Or is it just to keep everybody alive for the last few weeks of a lean winter? After which the cow will be fed again? I don’t know and SMG ain’t telling.

Of course I’m proud to be a SciBling, associated with so many great bloggers. But above all, Sb means readers to me, quality readers and commenters. It means that I get a share of the huge and constantly growing traffic generated by Pharyngula, Dispatches and Insolence. It means that my blog has a Google PageRank of 7 out of 10. After 3½ years at Sb I have a lot invested in this URL.

So if you’re an Aard regular, let me tell you that you needn’t worry about me jumping ship or quitting blogging. What you may need to prepare for is upheavals if/when Seed Media Group finds that selling Sb’s journalistic credibility isn’t enough to keep them afloat, and they simply sell the whole cow.

Image by Seda of VÃ¥rby school.

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8 thoughts on “An Egoistic Perspective on the Pepsiblog Debacle

  1. Thanks for hanging around. Being able to visit science blogs as a one-stop-shop for all things science has been very valuable to me. It’s sad to see so many leaving.

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  2. Great points. Between you and Mr. Laden I’m starting to understand a bit more of the situation. I’m trying to keep an open mind and I know that the attention the Pepsico blog gets will be crucial in determining exactly what kind of an impact they finally have on SB. I know this audience isn’t suddenly going to rollover and start loving videos of J-Lo in a lab coat, and I hope they realize that too. If it turns into any sort of a discussion, hopefully it gets into some of the deeper issues like answering for the sweeteners it uses and any other numbers of things people take issue with. Thanks for the additional layer of info and a great perspective on this. I think this Pepsi thing has given me more of a chance to get a uniformed view of each writer who has espoused an opinion on it. Which has been refreshing. Either way, thanks for the perspective.

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  3. Well, while I completely understand and respect the bloggers deciding to leave or at least go on a hiatus I also don’t think the crisis is so extreme that everyone should feel that need.

    Depressing development though. The big name bloggers might just jump ship and take their many, many loyal readers with them.

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  4. I actually see the Pepsico blog something that will be interesting to watch. Although I am not a scientist I am well aware that science has always had a strained love/hate relationship with business and corporations.

    The existence of that blog is a clear manifestation and representation of that conflict. It will be interesting to watch. And if the Food Frontiers blog ends up as a simple mouthpiece of Pepsico belching nothing new it will be ignored.

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  5. I’m surprised by the drama that has come out of this. Surely the Overlords made a management blunder, when they didn’t consult their bloggers about such a sensitive issue, but I didn’t expect a mass exodus. I expected only lot of heated discussion as a result. Orac has already declared the new PepsiBlog as fair game for Respectful Insolence, even though it is under the same roof.

    As I commented at Good Math, Bad Math, only cowards run away. (He decided to run away.) Brave computers like Orac stand and fight back.

    Anyway, many of those who are leaving seem to use PepsiBlog as an official excuse. They already had other issues, and were more or less actively looking for a new home.

    But every lost blogger decreases the value of Sb. In network engineering we have Metcalfe’s Law, which states that a network of N nodes has a value of N squared, because there will be N^2 possible connections. You can think of Sb as a network with blogs as its nodes. As an example of a possible connection, an engineer like me wouldn’t be commenting on Scandy archeology, unless your blog happened to appear in the 24h feed that has also more relevant (for an engineer) blogs.

    BTW, Carl Zimmer has started collecting addresses of the Sb refugees. Maybe it’s time to set up a scientific blog aggregator that is independent of paper media?
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2010/07/07/oh-pepsi-what-hath-thou-wrought/

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  6. Mike, Googe PageRank is the most important parameter deciding where on the list of hits your blog entries end up in each Google search. I get lots of traffic from Google: people commonly end up here because they searched for something mentioned in a comment!

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