More on the NYT ScienceBlogs article

I had promised to write more yesterday about the New York Times article that mentioned Cognitive Daily yesterday. Unfortunately, I got bogged down writing two CogDaily posts (here and here). Turns out — at least for now — that “Casual Fridays” are more work than regular CogDaily posts. I don’t expect that will remain true permanently. This week I had to figure out how to download the data from SurveyMonkey and put it into a format that allowed analysis. Then for next week’s survey I had to get Dreamweaver to do a redirect exactly 9 seconds after a web page had finished loading. From here on out, I’ll be using similar methods, so things should go more smoothly.

Anyway, back to the article. It’s not really so much a publicity vehicle for the site as it is an explanation of Seed Media’s strategy in landing advertisers for ScienceBlogs — which makes sense, since it’s in the Advertising column on the New York Times. A lot of ScienceBloggers have taken this opportunity to reassure their readers that they’re not going to be pressured by advertisers to tone down their rhetoric (see here and here). I guess I can see where the more political types might feel some sort of pressure (e.g. if a Lexus ad appears alongside a diatribe against the excesses of the Toyota corporation), but I have a hard time imagining where Cognitive Daily might feel that same sort of pressure. We’ve been tough on violent video games, so I guess we might object if Carmageddon IV wanted to place an ad on our site, but that strikes me more as foolishness on the advertiser’s part than “pressure” on us. If Seed Media asked us to stop writing about video games so they could sell gaming ads, we’d certainly head for the door, but they’ve promised never to do such a thing, and I don’t expect they will go back on their word.

The most important thing advertisers are getting by advertising on ScienceBlogs is access to an audience that trusts the people writing the blogs. They’d be stupid to ask the bloggers to broach that trust, because the trust itself is the primary thing they’re buying. Heck, even if Carmageddon decided to advertise on CogDaily and we wrote a post critical of their games, I suspect they’d still get clicks from our visitors. Every time we write one of those posts, we get linked by all the video gaming forums, and more than a few of those readers would be attracted to the fact that we don’t like the game.

The majority of the NYT article discusses the market analysis Seed Media has done to sell their ads. Apparently they’re going after what they call “Leonardos” — young (average age: 32), mostly male, and, most importantly, affluent people who are more intelligent and more interested in science and culture than the average person. This demographic, according to Seed, is over 20 million strong, and so is a group that advertisers should be taking seriously.

P.Z. Myers has taken offense at the “Leonardo” characterization, arguing that his readers are a more diverse group than that. He’s right, of course — obviously there are a wide variety of people reading science blogs. But I’m not sure that’s the point of Seed’s market research. What they’re interested in is if they can bring advertisers a disproportionately large share of “Leonardos.” I have little doubt that they can.

Now we all we need is for the NYT to do a feature on actual content of ScienceBlogs.

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3 Responses to More on the NYT ScienceBlogs article

  1. Bud Parr says:

    Leonardo would take offense too! Of course, at least they’re smart enough to call him by his name instead of where he came from, as in Da Vinci, as most seem to do these days.

    Despite what you say, Dave, and I don’t mean this confrontationally at all, I suspect advertising, particularly using major corporate advertisers, changes things, and I somehow think not for the best.

  2. dave says:

    Bud,

    I agree that advertising probably changes things. But so many other things about ScienceBlogs change things. The fact that we’re now associated with a group of science bloggers. The fact that we all have a unified design. The fact that we’re paid more. I don’t think we would have added the “casual fridays” feature to CogDaily if it hadn’t been for the Seed deal — it’s a lot of work, and we have to pay $20 a month for SurveyMonkey. But we figured this might increase reader interest on Friday and over the weekend, and that might generate more hits / revenue.

    Cognitive Daily had ads before — only they were the standard Google ads. Now we’ll be getting corporate ads (though Seed assures us they’ll be “tasteful”). I had to spend a lot of time weeding out objectionable ads on the old CogDaily site (essay farms, witchcraft advocacy sites, etc.). Now I get no say on the ads (though presumably if we find too many objectionable ones, we may decide to jump ship).

    Overall, however, I’d say advertising is the least significant change. It’s the community that may be subtly influencing me to write differently. Not necessarily worse, just different.

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