Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fluff v. Substance in the Pharma Blogosphere

Back on August 14, I reviewed the nature of the posts to Brandweek's NRx blog after Peter Rost took over (see "What's Brandweek's NRx Strategy?").

I characterized each post as being one of the following three types:

1. Shameless self-promotion,
2. Pharmaceutical industry related,or
3. Fluff about off-topic issues having nothing to do with the pharmaceutical industry.

That analysis covered only the first 24 posts made by Rost. To be fair, I should continue the analysis over time to see if anything has changed. It has!

The second group of 24 posts that Rost made AFTER my critical analysis is very much different than the first group of 24 (see chart).

Most notably, Rost has cut back on the self-promotion and doubled the percentage of posts that are about the pharmaceutical industry (from 21% to 42%). Posts about off-topic issues ("fluff"), however, also have kept pace with posts about the pharmaceutical industry. In other words, fluff and substance are running neck and neck at NRx.

In the beginning, Rost was drawing a lot of attention to himself, QA (his other blog), NRx, and his new book (Killer Drug). Now that sales of the new book have waned, so has the promos from Rost.

What about the equal time devoted to fluff?

That's always been a trademark of Rost and probably what brings many readers to his blog and ups his rating in technorati and other blog search engines.

One has to wonder about the quality of readers who gravitate to a blog with topics such as:

  • "Scientists report: Redheads going extinct."
  • "The best Toyota Prius advertising ever."
  • "Secretary fired for blogging wins both lawsuit and book deal."
Nevertheless, mixing personal observations and other "fluff" into the conversation is a tried and true staple of many bloggers. Apparently, readers like the entertainment value of knowing that redheads may be a "dying breed" (pun intended).

There may be a trend to add more fluff to the barbee at blogs in this space. Just recently, for example, Steve Woodruff over at Impactiviti Blog wrote a "fluffy" piece about the Mack v. Rost debate (see "Blockbuster Pharma Blogger Mega-merger Announced!"). Both Rost and I liked the post and wrote about it. No doubt all this increased Steve's readership because he followed up with a flurry of other posts that were on topic about his business.
[I have often noted a spike in readership when I post something edgy. It doesn't last and I question the value it brings to your blog in terms of sustained increased readership. My interpretation is that these are merely one-time curiosity seekers and not readers who will stick to you. If the goal of your blog is to generate customers for your business, these are not the kinds of readers you need, IMHO.]
Rost pointed out that "most regular news are (sic) boring, so we bloggers sometimes have to jazz things up a bit. After all, less than 10% of people 30 and under read a daily newspaper, but they do read blogs" (see "Impactiviti reveals the biggest merger in pharma blogging.")

The "non-Swede" (Woodruff) noted in a comment to Rost's post: "I'm feeling more comfortable now taking on controversial topics, letting some opinions fly, and hacking around a bit. Why not? The beauty of blogging is that it's not just 'objective content' - the message AND the messenger are wrapped up together!"

Frankly, I enjoyed Steve's post, mostly because it involved moi as a major character. It counts towards my 15 minutes of fame. But, I have to wonder what other people thought.

I agree with Steve that the "the message AND the messenger are wrapped up together!" I also agree with Rost that "regular news is boring."

But I prefer the technique employed by Ed Silverman at Pharmalot, who "jazzes" up his posts with iconoclastic images, quips and other indications of his personality inserted WITHIN the story.

In other words, there are two ways to "jazz" up your blog: WITHIN on-topic posts or WITHOUT (ie, separate off-topic whimsical posts).

The WITHIN camp tries to make the news more relevant, interesting and BIASED (ie, the messenger is wrapped up in the message), whereas the WITHOUT camp may be wasting the time of half of their readers (or half the time of all their readers) by devoting blog bandwidth to off-topic jokes, IMHO.

One word of caution: being edgy in your blog and basking in the increased flow of readers is addictive! Once you start down that slippery slope you cannot easily control yourself. At first, your edgy, off-topic posts account for only 5-10% of your total output. But, eventually, you may find that the "fluff" amounts to more like 40-50% of your bandwidth. Then, you know you have entered the Rost Zone of the Pharma Blogosphere!
DISCLAIMER: Bloggers -- myself included -- have a perfect right to run their blogs as they see fit and write about anything they see fit.

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