Media Bistro’s Web Newser reported July 8 that ScienceBlogs has already removed Food Frontiers, the advertorial blog PepsiCo sponsored for just two days.
Scienceblogs.com “has established itself as one of the premiere places to go on the Web for anyone interested in science news and analysis,” Web Newser wrote.
The Welcome post on Food Frontiers, written by Evan Lerner July 6, said, “We’ll hear from a wide range of experts on how the company is developing products rooted in rigorous, science-based nutrition standards to offer consumers more wholesome and enjoyable foods and beverages. The focus will be on innovations in science, nutrition and health policy. In addition to learning more about the transformation of PepsiCo’s product portfolio, we’ll be seeing some of the innovative ways it is planning to reduce its use of energy, water and packaging.”
The about section of Food Frontiers said
“This blog is sponsored by PepsiCo. All editorial content is written by PepsiCo’s scientists or scientists invited by PepsiCo and/or ScienceBlogs. All posts carry a byline above the fold indicating the scientist’s affiliation and conflicts of interest.”
Web Newser wrote that the blog “is an advertisement, designed to look like editorial content.” The difference between Food Frontiers and other ScienceBlogs-sponsored blogs is that previous blogs weren’t written exclusively by their sponsor. Web Newser cited ScienceBlogs blogger Orac, who wrote July 7 that earlier sponsored blogs Collective Imagination and Next Generation Energy Sciencebloggers wrote the blog with sponsors.
Carl Zimmer wrote on Discovery Magazine’s The Loom blog that “What I find particularly galling about this whole affair is that bloggers who don’t want to associate themselves with this kind of nonsense have to go through the hassle of leaving Scienceblogs and setting up their blog elsewhere….These folks did nothing to deserve this irritation.”
Zimmer used to blog for ScienceBlogs.
The Guardian posted July 7 an internal letter from Adam Bly, founder and CEO of Seed Media, to ScienceBlogs bloggers:
“We think the conversation should include scientists from academia and government; we also think it should include scientists from industry. Because industry is increasingly the interface between science and society. It is our hope that the Xeroxes and Bell Labs of the future will have a real presence on SB – that they will learn from our readers and we will learn from them. That they will break stories on SB and engage our readers in the issues that concern them. The bloggers who blog on ‘corporate blogs’ on SB are necessarily credentialed scientists (we make sure of that), in some cases highly credentialed scientists who have published extensively in peer-reviewed journals. The fact that they work at a profit-making company does not automatically disqualify their science in our mind. And frankly, nor does it disqualify them in the eyes of the Nobel Prize Committee either….
“Let me address PepsiCo in particular. Of course we recognize – and of course so does PepsiCo! – that they’ve made a lot of money selling soft drinks and chips. But they also recognize that their future will be troublesome and time-limited without addressing the real and connected issues of obesity and under-nutrition in the world. PepsiCo employs thousands of scientists working on these problems and they are led by some very serious scientists – eg. their chief scientist worked at the Mayo Clinic and serves on the Board of Governors of the New York Academy of Sciences.”
A handful of ScienceBlogs bloggers have left the site already. A list is available here.
Steven Andrew posted on Examiner.com July 7 a follow-up email from Bly responding to feedback to his first e-mail. In that e-mail, Bly wrote that Food Frontiers would feature a banner labeling the blog “Advertorial,” allow readers “the choice of opting out of the RSS feeds from sponsored blogs,” labeling sponsored blogs in the combined feeds, and “removing sponsored blogs from SB’s Google News feed.” The advertorial banner is already posted on the blog.
ScienceBlogs is sponsored by Seed Media Group.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics code advises to “distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.”
This isn’t the first time PepsiCo advertisements have appeared in news environments. Subscribers to the Huffington Post’s news update e-mail found in their inbox on May 14 a PepsiCo promotion for the company’s refresh project, instead of the usual list of news stories. See just below, the standard form for the Huff Post “The Daily Brief.”
On May 14, Huff Post exploited their news readers email list on May 14. “The Daily Brief” email in one’s inbox without warning became an advertisement, instead of news headlines. See screen shot at the bottom of the page.