Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pepsigate corporate exploitation of social media

It's blogocombat of the highest order. Nothing less than -- the war being waged to protect and defend the very heart and soul of the blogosphere itself.

A business that tries to hoodwink a social media community is doomed to go down blazing, roasting in falsification flames and fetid fanfare. The blogosphere has an immune system that will identify and defeat any alien intruders trying to bend it toward wayward hype and commercial illusion.

Pepsi attempted to enter the "Medicine and Health Channel" of the ScienceBlogs network with an obviously self-serving blog called Food Frontiers. This PR maneuver by PepsiCo triggered a mass exodus of talented writers from the ScienceBlogs fold, in rebellion against advertorial infomercial obfuscations.

This is similar to the strategy behind such monstrosities as Sponsored Links, Promoted Twitter Trending Topics, and Paid Listings, where a company pays to have their product included, intruding artificially, in search results and various categories of legitimate content.

Agency-derived PR/advertising messages masquerading as organic, community-friendly, uncompensated, customer-generated, objective, prompt-free, or directly spawned by algorithms corresponding to user input.

It amounts to pretending to be a viral topic, search result, news item, or normal user content -- when it's really not. The idea is to convey a sales or PR message in the (flimsy) disguise of unaffiliated social media contributions. Transparency, authenticity, and editorial integrity are sacrificed in the name of greed.

What makes it worse is that the blog was an ill conceived attempt to pose as science journalism, while functioning as corporate propaganda, and addressing it to a highly educated audience of critical thinkers and serious writers.

In their attempt to accommodate corporate opportunism, ScienceBlogs may have self-destructed in a crescendo of shame and sham.

Some outlets in mainstream media accused the science blogosphere of being full of non-credible kooks with axes to grind, whilst turning a blind eye to its own multiplicity of cases of dubious journalistic integrity.

ScienceBlogs, the leader in the science blogosphere, boasted of up to 1.2 million unique monthly visitors.

Quite a few top science bloggers defected, i.e., quit blogging for the network, because of their initial decision to allow Pepsico, Inc. to sponsor Food Frontiers blog on the site, but this blog has now been removed from the ScienceBlogs community.

PepsiCo announced that it would feature research and analysis from distinguished universities and centers of scientific discovery. Content would be provided by the Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the SETI Institute, CERN, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


As part of this partnership, 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. . .

. . .We have some exciting things planned for this project, including a video series that will begin with a look at the role the food industry plays in health issues, and how industry research into chemistry, physiology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, medicine, and nutrition can improve health outcomes around the world.


Many bloggers (like Rebecca Skloot, Grrl Scientist, and David Dobbs) saw this "nutrition blog" as a thinly veiled attempt by PepsiCo to exploit the social media realm.

To be more exact: the scientific community portion of the social media realm! We all know how easily duped those scientists and science journalists are, eh? Talk about inappropriate misappreciations.

PepsiCo would cavalierly post articles that supported their propaganda that "soda pop is good for you". Science enthusiasts were deemed stupid enough to be deceived. Bad deductive reasoning and ignorant marketing strategy, PepsiCo.

"Leveraging social networks to achieve business objectives" was unceremoniously unveiled as opportunistic corporate spin -- what some might call "taking advantage of online communities to promulgate biased reports with a goal to influence public opinion and inflate product sales".

Business As Usual is not welcome in the blogosphere, you capitalist lackeys.

Commercialism can't pose as user generated content, real time trends, viral velocities, or hard science. Get it through your head or end up unread and unfed.

Social media is all about caring and sharing. When you share sales messages in the form of biased or incentivized user generated content, which includes scientists paid to present information friendly to your brand and oblivious to true science, you will suffer the consequences.

Somebody help PepsiCo and ScienceBlogs with what we web guys call "online reputation management" aka "internet brand defamation" i.e., corporate damage control. They're going to need as much as they can get.

Read more about Pepsigate:

Newsweek "The Pepsi Challenge"

Forbes "Pepsi Enrages Science Bloggers"

Letter from Seed Editor Adam Bly to Contributors

Columbia Journalism Review "Uproar at ScienceBlogs"

PZ Meyers "Say Hello to PepsiCo??!? WTF?"

National Association of Science Writers "On Science Blogs This Week: Fizz"

Slashdot " Deals with Community Backlash Over PepsiCo Column"

Respectful Insolence "Blindsided by My Corporate Overlords and PepsiCo"

Jennifer Ouellette "Growing Pains"

Daily Kos "And Never the Twain Shall Meet"

Comprendia Bioscience Consulting Group "What Life Science Social Media Marketers Can Learn from ScienceBlog PepsiGate"

Watching the Watchers "The Corporation and the Community"

Lab Lemming "A Different Take on the PepSciBlog Scandal"

John Rennie "Teetering Chinese Wall Falls on Scienceblogs"

John Rennie "PepsiCo Scienceblog Goes Flat"

Martin Robbins "An Analysis of Pepsigate"

Abel Pharmboy "PepsiCo blog, Food Frontiers, is an affront to those who built the reputation of ScienceBlogs"

Uncertain Principles "Sodamageddon: Why I'm Not Leaving"

Knight Science Journalism Tracker "ScienceBlogs Trashes Credibility"

The Guardian "ScienceBlogs We Have a Problem"

Southern Fried Scientist "Blogging With Integrity"

Scholarly Kitchen "The Pepsi Syndrome"

Drug Monkey "Go It Alone or Form a Collective?"

ERV "Saturday Shillery: Quaker Oats"

The Frontal Cortex "Pepsigate and Why Diet Soda Makes People Fat"

A Blog Around the Clock "The PepsiGate Link Fest"

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