Thursday, August 02, 2007

Brandweek Hires Peter Rost, Moves to the Dark Side!

The pharmaceutical industry often complains that the "media" are unfriendly and biased against the industry. And at least one blog that shills for the industry -- DrugWonks run by PR agency Manning, Selvage and Lee's Peter Pitts -- is devoted to counteracting negative industry stories in the press.

Until recently, I didn't buy their arguments. I've seen as many stories in the press touting pharmaceutical products and practices as I have seen criticizing them (see, for example, "Am I Dreaming, or Is This [News Story] a Rozerem Ad?"). But the recent hiring by Brandweek of Peter Rost -- unabashedly a drug industry foe (he is, after all, a whistleblower and built a business on whistleblowing) -- to take over for Jim Edwards at BrandweekNRX blog has jaded my opinion of the media.

As I pointed out over at Pharma BlogosphereTM, "Rost as BrandweekNRX blogger makes perfect sense... if you intend to flush your blog down the drain as far as pharmaceutical industry readers are concerned -- except for their lawyers, that is." (See "It's Official. Rost Takes Over BrandweekNRX!")

I say this based upon two bits of research I have done:
  1. Pharma Blogosphere Survey: The First Ever Survey of Readers About Pharma Blog Credibility, Readability, Usefulness, and Bias (see Summary here).
  2. Pharma Marketing Blog Reader Survey (see a interactive Summary here)
Looking at the results from readers of this blog -- 41% of whom are employed in the pharmaceutical industry -- I find that whereas 24% of survey respondents read BrandweekNRX on a regular basis, only 17% read Peter Rost's Question Authority blog on a regular basis. This suggests, as far as my survey is representative of pharma blog readers on the whole, that BrandweekNRX's readership will drop (perhaps after an initial transient uptick attributable to curiosity).

The Pharma Blogosphere reader survey is more revealing as the following charts show.

Rost is considered MUCH more biased against the industry than is BrandweekNRX:

The bars show the % of respondents selecting the bottom 2 boxes ("very/somewhat" critical of the industry) vs. top 2 boxes ("very/somewhat" supportive of industry). Red arrow points to Rost's data, blue arrow to BrandweekNRX's. Please click on image to enlarge and read.

BrandweekNRX ranks very high in Overall Honors, whereas Rost is just average:

Only blogs are included for which data from 14 or more readers were available. That is, if less than 14 people answered this question, their responses were not included in the analysis. Red arrow points to Rost's data, blue arrow to BrandweekNRX's. Please click on image to enlarge and read.

Among pharma industry readers, BrandweekNRX won top honors in usefulness and credibility, whereas Rost didn't make top honors in any category:

This analysis excludes responses from respondents that rarely or never read the blog; plus more than 5 responses were necessary for a blog to be included in the analysis. BrandweekNRX highlighted in blue. Please click on image to enlarge and read.

There's a saying us Brooklynites have to live with all our lives, no matter where we end up calling home:

"You can take the girl [boy] out of Brooklyn, but you can't take Brooklyn out of the girl [boy]."

Which means, you can always recognize someone from Brooklyn by their accent and bias for their place of birth.

Applying this to Rost at BrandweekNRX, you could say that "You can take Rost out of Question Authority [where he is anti-industry], but you can't all of a sudden expect him to be an unbiased journalist."

IMHO, Brandweek should seriously consider the data I have presented above, because it signals that BrandweekNRX may lose some of its credibility and usefulness, especially among its most important audience: pharmaceutical executives.

Of course, you have to balance that against all the great publicity and perhaps greater readability that Rost will bring to BrandweekNRX.

The notoriety, however, will not last long. Perhaps that's why Rost hints his stint at BrandweekNRX may only be a temporary assignment (ie, "for a while"). Maybe it's destined to last only until Brandweek sees the numbers from its own reader research!


  1. Anonymous1:00 PM

    It'll be fascinating to see what happens on that front. I don't place too much store on your survey bexause it's respondents are too few in number and are all too likely to have a jaundiced view of the industry anyway. In my inside experience, happy pharma worker don't surf the blogs - it's the angry or displaced ones who read and respond to things like your survey.

    But as ever, you raise a good point for a bad reason. The Doc may struggle as "proper" journalism of the Jim Edwards/Ed Silverman type is bloody hard work. You have to go out and find stories to be consistently readable as an "infoblog", rather than hope that they'll come to you (as you know). It's so much easier to make stuff up or cut and paste (like I do, but then PG isn't an "infoblog" any more than your BlogosphereTM is intended to be).

    I think the Doc can make a real go of this but he will have to do something new, that is, carrying on being provocative, but also objective and funny at the same time. That's gonna be a tough call.

    I hope he makes it though. The blogosphere will be better for it...

  2. Giles,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I have no doubt that Peter will make an excellent journalist, albeit a biased one, which is my main beef.

    As for being good for our corner of the blogosphere, I have to disagree with you.

    There's already a trend where journalist "bloggers" are ganging together and getting themselves invited to industry conferences that claim to be presenting bloggers. What they are really presenting are journalists who also blog. That means that "traditional bloggers" -- never thought there would be a time when I could use that term! -- who are "outside" the news mainstream, are unable to compete, especially with journalist bloggers with purse strings from their big daddy pubs.

  3. P.S. Regarding survey numbers. Some big companies -- eg, Dendrite -- have made headlines from surveys with lesser number of respondents! And pharma listens like it's Gospel!

  4. Dear John, we have all waited very long for you to release the full results of this survey, which you have failed to do. Instead you cut and paste, selecting "pharma industry readers" to create a bias in your reporting. Please come clean, send us all the complete results. After all, that's what you promised when you asked us all to send readers to this . . .

  5. Sure, look to your email.


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