Thursday, 12 June 2014

9 Points on What Makes a Commercial Biotech Blog a Good One

We monitor developments in commercial biotech for our Twitter account @businesssnippet (see here) and so that we can best advise our clients. Over the last 2 years we’ve developed a sense of the blogs that are most useful to us and why. Here are our thoughts on the matter.

1. Insight and Context

The best bloggers are able to add a lot of insight and context to the facts of a story. An individual event will be placed in the context of what is happening in the biotech world, for example an M&A bubble or the trend towards personalised medicine or virtual structures. That will make their posts much more readable. Luke Timmerman (former Xconomy writer) is an example that comes to mind, though he is no longer blogging (see his Twitter account here). We also very much enjoy reading Bruce Booth at ‘Life Sci VC’ (see here).

2. Unafraid of Controversy

It’s quite easy to tell after a while which blogs mention the controversies that happen in the pharma world and which do not.  Pharmalot is not a blog that we follow regularly but it is unafraid of controversy and whistleblowing. It is in the process of moving to The Wall Street Journal (see here).

3. Bias

The biotech/pharma world is a complex one and it’s quite easy to become entrenched in a particular position. We find the best posts come from writers who are appreciative of the different perspectives that can be taken (i.e. pro-pharma, pro-patient, pro-patents, pro-developing world, etc).

4. Catching Everything

Some blogs are able to offer a ‘news service’ where they can be relied on to report every significant event. The Big Red Biotech Blog [Update: this blog is no longer online] and FierceBiotech (see here) fall into those categories. Both are able to analyse individual stories to give the wider context in very readable posts.

5. Timeliness

Blogs need to report stories quickly if they are going to be a good ‘new service’. FierceBiotech can be relied on to do this.

6. The Grass Roots/Insiders

Biotech/pharma seems to need contact with ‘insiders’ to deliver the best articles. Reading the everyday publicity is probably very deceptive to what’s really going on. Luke Timmerman and Derek Lowe’s ‘In The Pipeline’ (see here) seem to deliver this.

7. The Hype

A good biotech writer must be able to see beyond the hype. Derek Lowe is an example of a writer that has the correct level of scepticism to ask the right questions.

8.  US Focus

All the blogs we look at frequently are based in the US. The US is simply more developed in the area of specialist blogging and also probably has more organisations and journalists collecting and disseminating data. European biotech seems like a black hole in comparison. We do like the UK blog ‘Drug Baron’ though (see here).

9. Analytical vs Academic vs Journalistic

When evaluating posts we distinguish between the purpose and style of each writer. Life Sci VC is close to ‘academic’ in the quality of analysis and writing, but publishes less often.  The Burrill Report (see here) is somewhere in the middle.

Here’s a rather old FierceBiotech post on the topic of biotech bloggers (see here).

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