Alternative Media: Blogging for Pharma

Should pharma enter the blogosphere?
Oct 01, 2004

Debrianna Obara
Although weblogs—commonly know as blogs—have been around as long as the internet, only in the last year has the medium expanded from the realm of techies into the world of mainstream advertisers. From the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean to Google to Nike, organizations are looking at the web pages of bloggers to learn how to turn blogging to their advantage.

Pharma is no exception. Pharma marketers are proceeding to use blogs for strategic promotion, exploring the opportunities this new medium presents. This article discusses what blogs are and examines their potential payoffs and pitfalls.

Blog Basics A blog is simply an online journal or diary. Most are published using special blog-hosting services, such as BlogSpot or LiveJournal, designed to allow users with limited technology know-how to quickly and easily publish content online.

Several features distinguish blogs from typical websites. Generally, blogs are frequently updated (sometimes several times a day), organized chronologically with the most recent entries "above the fold," and contain links to other sites on similar topics. Blog software facilitates strong reader feedback, encouraging group participation through below-the-entry comments that function as ongoing discussion threads of the original topic.

It's a bird! It's a plane! No—it's Cialis Blog!
Most blogs are published by individuals who maintain minimal editorial oversight. Therefore, the language used by bloggers tends to be informal and conversational.

The world of blogs—the "blogosphere"—is growing. Perseus Development estimates that there were more than five million blogs at the end of 2003 and expects that number to exceed 10 million by the end of 2004. Blogs cover subjects ranging from technology, to politics, to entertainment, and health. However, they generally fall into three broad categories.
Individual blogs. These tend to be highly personal and often convey intimate details of the blogger's life. In the healthcare space, many patients chronicle their experience with a disease and its treatments. A cancer patient writes at for example, "Hey, things are getting a little better. Today I took my second dose of the Temodar. No vomiting whatsoever. Among the anti-nausea drugs, Zofran's the best."

Institutional blogs. Company blogs typically offer insight into an organization's goods and services, facilitate two-way interaction, and put a more human face on a large entity. Google's blog, located at, posts entries from software engineers, product managers, and store managers, discussing new products in a more dynamic way than press releases. Macromedia, which makes the popular Flash animation software, hosts nearly a dozen blogs ( that allow its customers to make feature requests, learn about product releases, and keep up to date with news from the development community.

Topical blogs. These web pages tend to aggregate news or analyze information related to a specific subject. For example, healthcare strategist Matthew Holt authors the Healthcare Blog. Located at , it features his opinions on breaking healthcare news, as well as links to related articles, and other resources.

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