Pepsico – the makers of much of the sugary caffeinated goodness that gets me through the day – seems to have managed to purchase a blog here. (Contrary to popular belief, that’s not actually the strategy I employed to get my slot. I don’t have corporate pockets, so I went with “beg and grovel” instead.) For obvious reasons, having a corporation blogging about their products at Sb raises some concerns about things like conflicts of interest, the increasingly blurry line between “news” and “news releases”, and the like.
Some bloggers – better ones than I – have already talked about leaving Sb as a direct consequence of the Pepsi deal.
I’m not sure that I’m going to be blogging here for much longer, but if I do leave, the Pepsi thing is probably not going to be the main reason.
Like Jason Goldman, I am concerned about the Pepsico blog, but not outraged. I am a long, long way from thinking that adding Pepsi is a boost to Sb’s credibility, but I’m also far from convinced that it’s as bad a move as some believe. Here’s my rough take on the issue:
1: As others have pointed out, this is not the first corporate blog we’ve had here. It’s also not the first blog sponsored by a corporation that has a less than immaculate reputation when it comes to issues surrounding public health and the environment.
2: As far as the reputation of the platform is concerned, I don’t see that as a huge issue. We, the ScienceBlogs bloggers, have done just fine tarnishing that reputation without the help of the overlords. I don’t think this is likely to do any more harm to the community or the reputation of Sb than some of the past escapades that did not involve corporate have.
3: Advertising versus content. I’m going to hold judgement on this issue for a bit, at least until I see enough content on the new blog to get a feel for things.
4: Longevity. As I mentioned, this isn’t the first time there’s been an attempt at a corporate blog here. The other’s didn’t really last all that long. Given our readership, the only way that this one will end up any different is if they do a good job engaging your interest. That’s not easy, and if they succeed in doing so it will be because the new blog is actually presenting some science, and providing a place where reasonable discussion of that science can take place. Frankly, bought and paid for or not, I don’t see that as a bad outcome.
All that said, I definitely understand why people are concerned, and I will certainly respect anyone who decides that they cannot continue to blog somewhere that is selling content space. Depending on what happens with this new blog (or if adding corporate blogs becomes a major feature of Sb), I can easily see myself winding up in that group a few months down the line. For now, though, I think the best option is to take a deep breath and relax. For now. While continuing to watch the situation really, really closely.