The pharmaceutical industry often complains that the “media” are unfriendly and biased against the industry. And at least one blog that shills for the industry — DrugWonks run by PR agency Manning, Selvage and Lee’s Peter Pitts — is devoted to counteracting negative industry stories in the press.

Until recently, I didn’t buy their arguments. I’ve seen as many stories in the press touting pharmaceutical products and practices as I have seen criticizing them (see, for example, “Am I Dreaming, or Is This [News Story] a Rozerem Ad?“). But the recent hiring by Brandweek of Peter Rost — unabashedly a drug industry foe (he is, after all, a whistleblower and built a business on whistleblowing) — to take over for Jim Edwards at BrandweekNRX blog has jaded my opinion of the media.

As I pointed out over at Pharma BlogosphereTM, “Rost as BrandweekNRX blogger makes perfect sense… if you intend to flush your blog down the drain as far as pharmaceutical industry readers are concerned — except for their lawyers, that is.” (See “It’s Official. Rost Takes Over BrandweekNRX!“)

I say this based upon two bits of research I have done:

  1. Pharma Blogosphere Survey: The First Ever Survey of Readers About Pharma Blog Credibility, Readability, Usefulness, and Bias (see Summary here).
  2. Pharma Marketing Blog Reader Survey (see a interactive Summary here)

Looking at the results from readers of this blog — 41% of whom are employed in the pharmaceutical industry — I find that whereas 24% of survey respondents read BrandweekNRX on a regular basis, only 17% read Peter Rost’s Question Authority blog on a regular basis. This suggests, as far as my survey is representative of pharma blog readers on the whole, that BrandweekNRX’s readership will drop (perhaps after an initial transient uptick attributable to curiosity).

The Pharma Blogosphere reader survey is more revealing as the following charts show.

Rost is considered MUCH more biased against the industry than is BrandweekNRX:

The bars show the % of respondents selecting the bottom 2 boxes (“very/somewhat” critical of the industry) vs. top 2 boxes (“very/somewhat” supportive of industry). Red arrow points to Rost’s data, blue arrow to BrandweekNRX’s. Please click on image to enlarge and read.

BrandweekNRX ranks very high in Overall Honors, whereas Rost is just average:

Only blogs are included for which data from 14 or more readers were available. That is, if less than 14 people answered this question, their responses were not included in the analysis. Red arrow points to Rost’s data, blue arrow to BrandweekNRX’s. Please click on image to enlarge and read.

Among pharma industry readers, BrandweekNRX won top honors in usefulness and credibility, whereas Rost didn’t make top honors in any category:

This analysis excludes responses from respondents that rarely or never read the blog; plus more than 5 responses were necessary for a blog to be included in the analysis. BrandweekNRX highlighted in blue. Please click on image to enlarge and read.

There’s a saying us Brooklynites have to live with all our lives, no matter where we end up calling home:

“You can take the girl [boy] out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the girl [boy].”

Which means, you can always recognize someone from Brooklyn by their accent and bias for their place of birth.

Applying this to Rost at BrandweekNRX, you could say that “You can take Rost out of Question Authority [where he is anti-industry], but you can’t all of a sudden expect him to be an unbiased journalist.”

IMHO, Brandweek should seriously consider the data I have presented above, because it signals that BrandweekNRX may lose some of its credibility and usefulness, especially among its most important audience: pharmaceutical executives.

Of course, you have to balance that against all the great publicity and perhaps greater readability that Rost will bring to BrandweekNRX.

The notoriety, however, will not last long. Perhaps that’s why Rost hints his stint at BrandweekNRX may only be a temporary assignment (ie, “for a while”). Maybe it’s destined to last only until Brandweek sees the numbers from its own reader research!