Seed, Conflicts of Interest, and Sleaze

As my friend Pal wrote about, Seed Media Group, the corporate overlords of the ScienceBlogs network that this blog belongs to, have apparently decided that blog space in these parts is now up for sale to advertisers.

We've been advertiser supported since I joined up with SB. I've never minded that before. Providing a platform and bandwidth takes money, which has to come from somewhere. The way that ads have been handled before has been no problem: the ads are clearly distinguished from the content. There's no way that you're going to mix up one of my posts with a paid advertisement.

Until now.

Seed has, in its corporate wisdom, decided to let Pepsico buy its way into a blog on ScienceBlogs. Pepsi writes SMG a nice check, and suddenly their content gets mixed in to the ScienceBlog RSS feeds, the ScienceBlog feed to Google News, etc., exactly the way that my blog posts do.

This is not acceptable.

For now, I'm suspending my blog for a few days. If Seed decides to back out of this spectacular stupidity, then I'll start posting here again. If not, then I'll go looking for a new home for GM/BM. The money that I've made from the ads that Seed has sold has been nice - but it's not worth my integrity.

If Blogs here are for sale, then I'm gone.

More like this

More and more of the other ScienceBloggers have weighed in on the Pepsi-written nutrition blog being hosted here at SB. A few more have announced blogging sabbaticals or simply shuttered their SB blog and opened up shop elsewhere. In addition to a mea culpa sent to the bloggers, the overlords have…
If you've been around Scienceblogs today, or on Twitter, you may have noticed that there appears to be a new blog around these parts. On behalf of the team here at ScienceBlogs, I'd like to welcome you to Food Frontiers, a new project presented by PepsiCo. As part of this partnership, we'll hear…
ScienceBlogs has made a distressing move: they've given PepsiCo a blog. It's called Food Frontiers and will feature content written by PepsiCo scientists. For now, I'm not going to get into PepsiCo's contribution to public health problems or what kind of content we might expect to see on the blog.…
I'm late to the party: I was in Europe, and before that I was in Los Angeles, and before that Colorado, and I am time-shifted and sleep-deprived (hate it: Takes away energy, intellectual nimbleness -- yeah, I got some -- and any ability to multi-task). And that's enough with the lame excuses.…

I've read your blog for quite a while now and have always enjoyed it. It is sad that something so manifestly stupid as this is driving good authors away from Sb, but please know that at least this reader wholeheartedly supports you. If you leave Sb, I'll dutifully update my feedreader. Just tell me where to go.

I very much support your decision. I hope that many other bloggers will follow your example.

I will happily look elsewhere to continue reading your enjoyable and informative blog.

By Craig Holman (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

I'll also make sure to keep following your work wherever you wind up.

By Left_Wing_Fox (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

I only come to this site to read your content. I certainly won't stop reading your posts if you move to another site. Let us know what you decide.

By Mark O'Shea (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

Im not good at maths I cant balance my cheque book and I only understand the 1-2 syllable words in your posts, but they are of great interest and I do go on to research some of the topics you cover.

So it would be a shame to loose the insights, facts and food for thought I find interesting. But I will follow you if/when people come to their senses. Kudos.

"For now, I'm suspending my blog for a few days."

Um, and that would be different how?

(Yeah, I know, I'm complaining about low quantities of free ice cream. And you've been busy. But this kinda works better if you've been posting frequently.)

The above is somewhat tongue in cheek and not meant adversarially.

I can't say I blame you. The Pepsi thing is, most likely, part of their lobbying and PR campaign against soda taxes. So they'll post a bunch of bafflegab about how surprisingly nutrient-rich Pepsi is, and how a Mountain Dew at the right time can really make the difference for a High School student's test performance.

By https://www.go… (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

Do post if you move and where you are moving too.

I've scheduled my last post for later this morning, and I e-mailed in my notice. Even if this whole mess gets resolved, there'll just be another six months or a year down the road . . . whatever benefits I got from having my blog hosted here aren't worth the hassle.

In all honesty, my enthusiasm for blogging had fallen quite a ways in the past several months. I had considered just letting my site gather dust; this little incident gave me the impetus for an active leave-taking.

As I read this, the top banner ad shows: "How high is your IQ? What number do you see?" along with the multicolored dot test used to test for color blindness!! I hope it's not a reflection on the Sb readership...

The flashing ads on the side don't help either. I'm afraid it's time to unleash the ad blocker on Sb...

I don't read your blog often, but I do occasionally, and always make sure to pass along posts to a mathematically-inclined friend of mine. I have certainly enjoyed many of your posts, particularly the ones on statistics, but I'm a first-class mathematical dummy, so I have trouble with most of the rest of them. I'll look for you at your new home if you move.

I'm also very sorry to see Blake Stacey go. :(

By Interrobang (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

Thank you, Mark, for doing the right thing, and for explaining the reasoning in a pithy and forthright manner. It's refreshing. I hope the gushing sleaze (apt word choice) gets, uh, the junk shot treatment, and you're able to come back. You'll be missed. :-(

Wow. This looks like a spectacularly bad decision from Scienceblogs.

I'll definitely keep reading if you do decide to move away.

Only cowards run away.

The bloggers at SB have lots of influence. Use it to make sure that the new blog sticks to science. And the readers are here too. I'll get worried only if Pepsi starts censoring the comments. (Other that obvious spamming like from "rosetta stone" above.)

I for one am curious to see how much science goes into designing junk food.

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink

Ditto the other commenters. I'll read your blog wherever you host it.

I fully support your position here -- all I hope is that if you end up leaving SB because of Seed's lack of integrity, that you pick up blogging again somewhere else. I don't often comment, but I learn a tremendous amount from you.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

As much as Seed may wish otherwise, I do not read ScienceBlogs. I read Pharyngula, I read Good Math/Bad Math, I read ERV, I read Science after Sunclipse, etc. It matters little to me that these blogs are all hosted by ScienceBlogs, for there are plenty of blogs I read hosted elsewhere as well -- Bad Astronomy, Backreaction, Swans on Tea, etc. Show me a good blog and I'll follow it, regardless of hosting.

I used to consider the hosting service until I confused and So seeing poorly researched thinly veiled advertising/press releases come from what I thought was Seed doesn't surprise me.

By Blaise Pascal (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

As a more constructive question, what would need to be done to have both the Pepsi blog and your blog stay here? If you inherantly dislike the idea of sponsored blogs, you'd have left when GE or Shell did it.

If all feed posts started with "Pepsico sponsored content" would that solve the RSS issue. If blog content is an issue do you think it is possible to have a quality blog from a corporate sponsor. For example, if Google deigned it was useful to create an outpost on scienceblogs (with appropriate sponsorship disclaimers) would you also flee?

I have some more critical comments at:… comment #6

I'd suggest that everyone make a decision to never visit the Pepsi blog. Don't even check on what they are saying. After all, if they are here because they want traffic, don't give them traffic. They might just go away on their own.

By Broken Link (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

Read you before SB, will read you after.

If you inherantly dislike the idea of sponsored blogs, you'd have left when GE or Shell did it.

1. All the earlier corporate-sponsored blogs had people who weren't just company employees writing for them.

2. It's possible we made a mistake and should have taken a stronger stance then, too.


I wasn't happy with the other sponsored blogs - but they were really a fundamentally different thing. In every case, they had bloggers from SB as participants; the content wasn't controlled by the corporate flacks. They were sponsored, but they had a substantial proportion of independent content. And their comments weren't moderated by the corporate flacks.

This is a different thing. This is straightforward advertising being presented as content. All of the content is written by Pepsi. The comments are moderated by Pepsi. There is no contribution or oversight by anyone from the SB community.

Blogging for an advertising-supported site is, inherently, a tradeoff. But Seed has been progressively pushing the limit. Shrinking our content space, adding more and more obnoxious ads, etc. This latest step puts it beyond the line of what I'm willing to be part of.

I read and enjoy your blog, but I never noticed it was part of a larger network. I read the feed and most of the time I click through to the whole article. If you were to go somewhere else with your blog (and blogging space is a commodity), nothing would change for me and others who use the RSS feed.

Just leave a forwarding address and I'm sure your readers will follow you.

I've been lurking almost exclusively, with only the (very) occasional comment on any of the blogs here, but I'll delurk to say that I agree with your stance and expect to follow you to whereever you go.


Please let us know how to tell Science Blogs we think they're making a bad decision. I am commenting here in case that's the way to do so. I'll keep following you. I hope the 2 or 3 other SB blogs I follow will also move.


I hope plenty of people follow your lead and that ScienceBlogs reconsiders its decision.

Blaise Pascal has it right. People read GMBM for you, not because it's at scienceblogs.

It's dead easy to set up your own blog, BTW. I'd even contribute free hosting if a few people needed it.

As with most of the comments here, I'm wholly with you on this. I hope Seed will cave, but if they don't, I'll gladly follow you to wherever you may set up your blog next.

If Blogger weren't having problems with their comments, I'd say go there (various styles, associated blogs, automatic feeds, etc.). But right now... their comments are pretty much f-ed.

As others have said, I've been reading you since before you were here, and will follow you to the next blogging site.

By Josiah C. (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

Good luck, and let Mark Zimmer (at The Loom) know where you're going!


I never had to leave. And getting rid of the pepsi blog after the fact isn't enough to change my mind. As I've said, it wasn't really about the Pepsi blog. It's about a long series of bad decisions from Seed. The way the Pepsi thing was launched was the last straw, the one that put me over the edge. But it wasn't the sole cause. And none of the underlying issues are going to be fixed.

I'm there with you. I'll read your blog where ever it is hosted and I'm sure SB will keep your blog around long enough to forward everyone.

As I've said, it wasn't really about the Pepsi blog. It's about a long series of bad decisions from Seed.

I had a job that was similar. At the end of work one day, I said I quit. After I convinced them I was not kidding, they wanted to know, What happened today that was so bad?

My answer was that it was just like any other day there. When given a choice, they would do the wrong thing. Almost every time.

I hope you find somewhere that you are happy.

I hope to be able to follow your writing wherever you go. Have Orac, or somebody else, post a link to your new home.

Good math is essential to science. Without good math, it becomes trial and error - a lot of error that could have been prevented with good math.