Last weekend I attended the ScienceOnline 2011 conference in North Carolina and it was amazing. 250 Bloggers, authors, educators, and journalists, all with a passion for online science, getting together ‘unconference‘ style to discuss the status and the future of communication in this medium. While I had a fantastically fun time, I was there to help understand how to bridge life science companies and bloggers. My interview with Science in the Triangle and the slideshare presentation (with audio) from the session are both below and describe our goals and progress at the conference.
Brian Krueger from LabSpaces and Kristy Meyer from Sigma helped with planning and surveys we did in preparation for our Sunday session, and they led a related session on Saturday (their summaries of the Saturday session are linked to their names). Tricia Kenny from Life Technologies also helped with planning but was unable to attend. We had a small crowd, likely due to the fact that we were opposite a popular session about science blog networks. I was told by several bloggers and blog network managers that they really wanted to come and have a lot of interest in hearing the outcome, so I’m very optimistic about making these partnerships work. Feel free to watch/listen to the presentation and discussion below, and here is my summary:
- Life science bloggers and companies have little communication outside of the researcher/supplier relationship. This may be due in part to ’1.0′ communications between the two, which invariably are focused on products.
- Life science companies want to do more social media/web 2.0 advertising and want to control the content. However, it’s likely that they have not sufficiently budgeted staff resources to create the additional content. They are interested in supporting blogs and web 2.0 sites, but it will likely need to be done very carefully from both sides to prevent another PepsiGate (which was fresh in the minds of participants at the conference).
- Several ideas for companies and bloggers working together were proposed:
- Career resources/alternative careers. Companies could help bridge the gap by helping researchers understand what different departments and individuals do at a company. Both C&EN and LabSpaces provide this now, but companies could step in and provide benefits for each. Moreover, hiring young scientists to write content for a corporate blog would also be a great way to introduce them to life science company culture and for the companies to get the content they need. A theme of our session was that if the companies give something back to the scientists, more bridges will be made. If you’ve been following this blog, we think that life science companies have been doing this for years through content-rich resources, and think that the transition to ’2.0′ should be straightforward.
- Separate areas. A completely separate section of a blog managed by a company. Life science companies thought that an ‘ask an expert’ forum managed by the company was particularly attractive, with more than 50% indicating they’d be interested. When we talked with one blogger during the session, she was very positive overall with the idea, but was uncomfortable when it seemed as though the company’s materials would be ‘mixed in’ with hers. I attended most of the sessions surrounding science blogging, and a theme was that blogs are different because they’re very personal.
- Underwriting. Similar to the support of our local PBS station by Life Technologies, and the business model of Xconomy, companies could show support without affecting the content of the publication. Another idea is to clearly designate posts similar to Xconomy’s ‘Xconomists’ section, which is clearly labeled as an editorial area, and likely self-promotional in some ways.
Another very interesting aspect of the conference is that groups were there that I hadn’t thought about, e.g., authors of ‘science non-fiction’ such as Carl Zimmer. These participants are naturally attracted to the conference as writers, and I’m sure they got a lot out of attending the conference personally. In addition, many of the other attendees are also influencers of their customers, namely scientists, and so the conference was also good for them from a business perspective.
My point? We’re forging new trails here and need to be creative in thinking about these new relationships–think outside the box, as trite as it may sound. It may not be easy, but the companies and blogs that succeed in this new genre will not only benefit by getting started now, but may also gain increased notoriety and positive PR, similar to the attention companies like Comcast and Zappos have achieved by blazing trails in customer service utilizing Twitter. Check out the presentation with full audio from our session below, or skip to the ‘Next Steps’ section at the end if you’re ready to get involved.
Note: We showed some of the results from our survey of life science companies at the session, and will publish the full results soon.
Next Steps. We’re ready to start formalizing discussions between bloggers, companies, and writers. Without further ado, here’s a form you can fill out to get started. If you’re not the form type, drop me a line, or call me, I’m easy to find. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts below on the subject, our session at ScienceOnline was just the beginning!
Let’s get this partnership started! (Patent is pending on that tagline, you know how marketers are ;)
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