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May 3
Agnes Shanley Says "Blog Schmog"; I Beg To Differ
Earlier this month, fellow healthcare blogger Agnes Shanley attempted to pop theburst_bubble.jpg hype bubble surrounding blogging.  Shanley who writes the Weblog, On Pharma said:

“Zube-gate aside, rumors of [blog's] power to change the world have been greatly exaggerated. ‘The temptation is to devote increasing amounts of time and mental energy to blogging without realizing that your efforts could be more profitably spent elsewhere,’ says Robert W. Bly, author of the new book Blog Schmog: The Truth About What Blogs Can (and Can’t) Do for Your Business.  

Amen. I thought of this after noticing the ongoing dearth of comments on this blog, watching the old blog site slowly die (people are still linking to that site, rather than this one) and reading that Pharma Giles, a very witty blogger with an original concept and a quickly growing following, would be ending his blog (a move that many of us hope he will reconsider).”

Yes, in a few respects Shanley is absolutely correct.  Blogging is hard work, won’t automatically jump start your business and can be very addictive.  It's also not the right marketing strategy for many companies and individuals.  However, to say that blogs are not significantly influencing health and healthcare is far from correct.  For example, over the past few months, I’ve reported on research indicating that blogs are playing an increasingly important role in the patient-provider relationship, health information consumption and other areas.  

While it is true that many blogs do not receive lots of comments, that’s only to be expected.  After all, 99% of readers read. Only 1% participate by commenting, e-mailing and linking to content.


Question Authority: A Blog That Has Regained Its Footing

It is also clear that blogs are influencing corporations.  Last year, the managed care company Kaiser Permanente learned how blogs can latch on to a story and amplify its reach -- even if the mainstream media (temporarily) ignore it.  Lately, we’ve seen Peter Rost’s blog Question Authority play a similar role.  

Earlier this year, Rost had famously stopped blogging because I suspect he decided he had nothing more to say.  However, his permanent blogging vacation barely lasted a week.  Since then his blog, which meandered from pharmaceutical industry-focused posts to musings about his life in general, has regained its edge.  After posting an item about AstraZeneca’s “bucket of money” scandal whistleblowers throughout the industry have begun to regularly forward information about alleged drug firm malfeasance to Rost.  

It is important to note that the allegations published on Question Authority are devoid of context and should be examined carefully for their veracity.  However, some of them have sparked significant media coverage and investigations by public officials and government agencies.  Whether you believe the information appearing on Rost’s blog is gospel or unsubstantiated rumors, it cannot be ignored.  So, this is my advice for various pharma industry stakeholders regarding Question Authority:

-If you are in crisis communications: read Rost’s blog
-If you are a lawyer: read Rost’s blog
-If you are a journalist: read Rost’s blog
-If you are a pharma CEO: read Rost’s blog

I could go on, but you get the point.

In sum, we’ve seen how healthcare blogs are becoming an increasingly important force in the industry.  Whether a Weblog receives fifteen comments or zero, piddling or significant traffic it is having an impact on some segment of the industry.    

3 Comments/Trackbacks

Thanks for commenting and linking to the post. Admire your site and will link to it. I agree that it would be absurd to dismiss blogs' potential power in pharma. Patient and physician blogs are already extremely important, Peter Rost has brought pharma blogging to a whole new level as an agent of change, and Derek Lowe's R&D blog always generates fine discussion.
I guess it may take some time for interest in blogs and social media to trickle down to the niche of the industry that I cover, where approval in triplicate from corporate and legal is still the order of the day, even for the most trivial things. It will come, though, no doubt.



Thanks for coming by and for your kind words. Yes, there are many legal/regulatory issues that are keeping certain segments of the health industry from engaging social media. However, I think over time this may change as people find tools and technologies they can use while adhering to legal/regulatory requirements.

I left a bit more direct comment on Agnes' post.

An interesting aside is that questioning the "power of blogs" usually brings about a very graphic demonstration of that power.

But it is such demonstrations that get people to pay attention.

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