Sunday, August 19, 2007

What does the First Ever Pharma Blogosphere Survey tell us

First, let me make a few comments. I find John Mack's Pharma Marketing blog useful. Marketing tends to be a black box for me. From my perspective, for the inputs you have guys who want to sell things, and for the outputs you have commercials and other promotional materials. I (partly by choice and partly by the way my brain works) understand very little about what happens between input and output. All I know about it is play my strengths and downplay my weaknesses. This is part of the reason I'm limiting myself to discussing statistical issues, at least on this blog.

However, when he came out with his First Ever Pharma Blogosphere Survey®©™, I was skeptical. In fact, I didn't pay much attention to it. But then he started making claims based on the survey, especially surrounding Peter Rost's new gig at BrandweekNRX. His predicted Brandweek would "flush its creditibility down the toilet" by hiring Rost, and cited his survey data to back up his case (he had other arguments as well, but, as noted above, I'm just covering what I know). And since I'm skeptical of his data, I'm skeptical of his analysis, and, therefore, his arguments, conclusions, and predictions based on the data. To his credit, however, he posts the raw data so at least we know he didn't use a graphics program to draw his bar graphs.
Rost's counterarguments are worthy of analysis as well. He notes that most people read the Pharma Marketing blog (the survey was conducted from its sister site Pharma Blogosphere), raising the question about which population Mack was really sampling. The correct answer, of course, is people who happened to read that blog entry around the day it was posted who cared enough to bother to take a web survey. I would agree that Mack's following probably make up a bulk of the survey.
But more important is the comparison of the survey to more objective data, such as site counters. (Note that site counter data isn't perfect, either, but it is more objective than web polls since the data collection does not require user interaction.) And it looks like that objective data doesn't match Mack's data.
Then you throw in the data from eDrugSearch, which has its own algorithm for ranking healthcare websites, but they seem a very out of line with the ranking algorithm from that of Technorati, which uses some modifications to the number of incoming links (I think to adjust for the fact that some blogs just all link to one another).
So, at any rate, you can be sure that Peter Rost will keep you abreast of his rankings, and for now they certainly do not seem to match Mack's predictions. And, while the eDrugSearch and Technorati rankings seem far from perfect, they do tend to agree on the upward trend in readership of BrandweekNRx and Rost's personal blog, at least for now. Mack's survey, and the predictions based on them, are the only data I've seen so far that have not agreed.
In the meantime, I say the proof is in the pudding. Read these sites, or, better yet, put them in an RSS reader so you can skim for the material you like. Discard the material you don't like. As for me, well, I like to keep abreast of the news in my industry because, well, it could affect my ability to feed my children. So far, Rost's blog breaks news that doesn't get picked up anywhere else, (as does Pharmalot and PharmGossip). Mack's blogs did, too, at least until he started getting obsessed with his subjective evaluation of Rost's content.