the amazing, shrinking science blogging network

July 20, 2010

Does anyone else hear that odd, hissing sound? It seems to be coming from ScienceBlogs, which is losing contributors even after the huge mess that was PepsiCo’s attempt at science blogging finally began to die down. As of last count, it lost some twenty blogs. That’s roughly 24% of its portfolio, and now, with the rather shocking departure of Bora Zivkovic, who was one of the people who many Sb bloggers considered a close friend and mentor, more may be willing to follow. It’s not about corporate sponsors and journalism anymore, it’s about a spillover of pent-up conflicts behind the scenes and in some cases, blatantly self-serving cries for attention. Pepsi’s corporate blog, which was doomed way before it was ever even considered by Bly & Co., was just the final straw for those fed up with Sb’s business practices, a way to leave the network with a bang rather than a whimper, and a sign that things will never change for those long frustrated with Sb’s direction.

But it was highly unlikely that Adam Bly would feel the impact of even that many of his bloggers closing shop since his top attractions, PZ and Ed Brayton, remain firmly planted at Sb, which meant that for the time being, roughly half of his traffic is staying put. Even trimming down to just 40 blogs would’ve been an acceptable risk for the network, since the bloggers who stay would probably account for a major chunk of the consistent, daily readership. However, knowing just how much pull he has at the network, PZ decided to go on strike until he’s seen some commitment from the network on improving relations with bloggers. If I were Bly, I would be really worried. I mean really worried. The residual traffic to Pharyngula will be steady for a while, but without any new posts for more than a few weeks, the hit counters will go into a nosedive. And if PZ does go solo, as he’s made very clear he’s willing do in his last post, Sb could be pretty much dead in the water.

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  • Wow. I was over at Pharyngula earlier, reading the post PZ had about Bora, but apparently he hadn’t decided to withhold further posting at that time. I’m actually refusing to even click that link you provided, because I support this move and won’t produce even that much traffic…

    The problem is, internet advertising got set up on a different structure than broadcast, and provides income mostly on “click-throughs” rather than simply page views. Television, with far higher background costs, has made do with viewer numbers, occasionally based solely on prime viewing times rather than content. There’s no reason for this disparity, but it’s going to take some service providers with major clout to force this to change.

    ScienceBlogs also had the ability to make advertising less obnoxious but apparently refused to put any effort into this (and many other things as well, according to most of the vacating bloggers.) Their woes appear to be their own fault.

    This situation might be the driving force behind a new internet business model, which is long overdue. Could be fun to watch.

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