Thursday, September 11, 2008

IgniteBlog's Fabio Gratton Used to be Tom Cruise's Personal Assistant

There are only 3 degrees of separation between me and Kevin Bacon! I know and have hung out with Fabio Gratton, who was Tom Cruise's personal assistant, and Tom Cruise was in the movie A Few Good Men with Kevin Bacon!

Fabio, as you may know, founded Ignite Health, a technology-based healthcare communications [got to correct the spelling on your LinkedIn page, Fabio] agency committed to innovating healthcare marketing. He is also the author of IgniteBlog.

Anyway, for those who care, here's Fabio's complete work history as outlined on his personal web site:

  • First job: mowing lawns (paid for my first scooter)
  • Second job: creating logos for my dad's company (healthcare)
  • Third job: Kinney Shoes (Yes, fitting shoes for smelly feet)
  • Fourth job: Mario's Restuarant, Westwood Village (fired because they thought I was stealing money from the cash register)
  • Fifth job: UCLA Alumni Annual Fund (sucked)
  • Sixth job: Intern at Paramount Pictures Story Department (learned everything I ever needed to know about screenwriting)
  • Seventh job: Personal assistant to Tom Cruise (he was good to me)
  • Eighth job: Fair-Riley-Call / Bozell (healthcare advertising)
  • Ninth job: Started Ignite Health (never looked back)
Fabio also created this rebus, which I saw on a MM&M Webcast about Pharma eMarketing ROI (see "Do Privacy Concerns Stand in the Way of Measuring Pharma eMarketing ROI?"). Can you tell me what "It" is?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Problem with Print Media Blogs

I've often criticized "blogs" owned by the print media (ie, newspapers) as not being in the same category as "traditional" blogs written by individuals. For one thing, editorial policies that rule these "media blogs" often do not allow readers to "look under the curtain" that news organizations place around the news.

Another problem, which I have often noticed with media blogs, is that they tend to write about the same topic at the same time! You can see this graphically by accessing PharmaMarketingNetwork's Pagecast, which I maintain.

The following was recently captured from that page:

At the time these images were captured, Wall Street Journal Health Blog and Pharmalot -- the two most popular print news media blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere -- simultaneously had these as their top posts. This happens often.

A similar phenom can be seen in the evening network news programs on TV. You can flip through the channels and see the same story running at the same time on all three networks (you can also see the same drug DTC ads running at the same time on all three networks!).

The WSJ Health Blog got some criticism at a recent meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (see this post). WSJ Blog author Scott Hensley admitted that "some in the audience grumbled that the way we do things — a generally news-driven rather than an opinion blog — isn’t bloggy enough for their taste." He also called attendees "Egghead Editors and Publishers" and the "brainy bunch," which generally are derogatory terms meant to put smart people in their place, if you know what I mean. Yet, Scott claims that his blog "is building a community of smart readers." Seems to me, Scott, you can't build a community of smart people and insult the whole class of smart people as "eggheads" at the same time.

Of these two blogs, I like Pharmalot best because I get Ed Silverman's -- the author's -- personal point of view on the news. With the WSJ Health Blog, I just get the news -- which is fine if you want a Cliff Notes version of the WSJ's printed health section.

Pharmalot is also more creative, especially with its use of graphics. Hey, WSJ guys! Get with the 21st Century -- it's a colorful world out there. You have to break out of the B&W etch-a-sketch portraits that your print brethen are so proud of. Maybe Mr. Murdock will read this and bring some color to the WSJ front page and to the WSJ Health Blog too!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Is a 3rd-Party "Seal of Approval" for Health Blogs Necessary?

Fard Johnmar, founder of healthcare marketing communications consultancy Envision Solutions, LLC and author of the blog HealthCareVox, just released results of a new study of the Health Blogosphere. Here are some snippets form the press release:

"According to a national survey we commissioned, the U.S. adult health blogging population currently stands at 13.6 million. (We defined health bloggers as people writing on blogs where at least at least 50% of posts focus on health-related topics.) In addition, the majority of health bloggers are female and 38% are either African American or Hispanic.

"Marketing activity taking place in the health blogosphere has increased. For example, the number of bloggers reporting inquiries from public relations professionals jumped 57% between 2006 and 2007. Also, respondents were more likely to report running advertising on their Weblogs.

Of course, these marketing trends will be cause for concern for some. However there is evidence many bloggers are operating ethically. Most respondents view statements by their peers critically. Yet the majority have great confidence health bloggers routinely disclose apparent and implied conflicts of interest.

Overall, these two studies indicate that the state of the health blogosphere is strong. Millions of Americans are writing health blogs. In addition, many are operating ethically."
However, at least one-third (34%) of respondents have low confidence that healthcare bloggers disclose conflicts of interest and about the same feel that running advertising on blogs negatively affects credibility (an equal number strongly disagree). [Compare these results with the 2007 Pharma Blogosphere Survey.]

At least one commenter to Fard's post announcing the report suggested that a "smidgen of regulatory oversight" might be called for:
"Seems to me that a 'credentialing' function or disinterested 3rd party seal of approval may filter the credible sites from the pumping crowd.

Privacy, legal and veracity issues notwithstanding, the horse is no doubt 'running on the range'. The question seems to be: how will market forces, tempered by voluntary enforcement of a code of ethics, coupled perhaps with a smidgen of regulatory oversight coalesce into an aggregate voice in the interest of public health?" -- Gregg Masters
[I note with amusement, that when you click on Gregg's name, you are brought to the site -- "Your trusted source for value in hospital and physician services..." -- which has no information about who produces the site, what the privacy policy is, and what, if any, conflicts of interest may exist.]

Is a "Seal of Approval" Needed for Health Blogs?
No, we don't need no stinkin' seal!
Yes, it is imperative!
Can't say one way or another
Maybe not a seal, but a "credo" or guidelines with signatories -- like the PhRMA Code