ScienceBlogs.com -- one of the most well-known and highly-cited blog sites -- caused quite the hullabaloo on Twitter and the blogosphere today when they announced their newest contributor: PepsiCo. For quite some time, SEED Media (the parent company behind ScienceBlogs.com) has sold advertising space on contributors' sites. But as PalMD describes in his post, the center panel of each site is always under the direct control of the author. With the launch of the PepsiCo blog, SEED Media is in grave danger of blurring the line between advertising and content.
I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with selling ad space on the periphery of popular blog platforms. Everyone has to pay the bills, and SEED Media needs a revenue stream to distribute and market its content. But I'm not exactly sure how PepsiCo will use its newly launched blog, now that it has control of that valuable "center panel". Only time will tell whether the PepsiCo blog will become a PR platform for the food conglomerate, or whether they'll actually contribute to scientific discourse.
Whether we like it or not, the prepared food industry will be a major player in our food supply in the near future. We need to find novel ways to engage these companies to improve health and nutrition in society. Hopefully, PepsiCo takes this opportunity to contribute in the exchange of scientific information, and doesn't just focus on improving sales.
I'll be watching this site very closely over the next few months, and I'll report on what I find.