Sunday, February 08, 2015

Crossing the One-Million Mark: A Decade's Worth of Stem Cell Readership

Google message on page views from last Friday.
The California Stem Cell Report last week chalked up its one millionth page view, a large and fancy readership score that came after more than 10 years of writing about the Golden State’s $3 billion stem cell research program.

Google reported the seven-digit figure at 10:50 a.m. PST on Friday.  No bells rang, however, and no whistles sounded. The tumbler on “dashboard” of the blog just simply and silently clicked over from 999,999.

For those not familiar with Internet terms, a page view is recorded by Google each time a person opens his or her Internet browser on a particular page. It is an industry standard that it is used to help define readership, something akin to circulation numbers for newspaper.

The one-million figure is both large and small. It is tiny in comparison to most general news sites, which may gather millions of page views in a week. It is large in comparison to the potential audience. This writer estimates that no more than 3,000 or 4,000 persons worldwide are deeply interested in stem cells. Considerably fewer are deeply interested in the affairs of the California stem cell agency.

There is also the “so what” question that comes up when evaluating readership. Have any of the more than 4,000 items published since January 2005 had a significant impact? That is always hard to judge, but bumps in readership tend to indicate that certain themes are resonating.  The scope of the audience also indicates that many individuals find frequent value in what is carried here. 

Regular readers of the California Stem Cell Report range from the general public to the folks at the National Institutes of Health. Readers check in from Harvard, UC San Francisco, Stanford, UCLA, UC San Diego, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and many other locations. Occasionally, a member of the stem cell agency governing board will comment favorably and privately about the value of the blog. Journalists read it, using it as a springboard for their own stories.

The article with the highest views by far deals with the potential cost of stem cell therapies and discussed a report from Japan that contained the figure $512,000.  Earlier today, the item recorded 10,303 page views since it was published less than two years ago. Also today, the article ranked No. 6 out of 2.5 million results in a Google search using the term “stem cell therapy cost.” The piece seems to have attracted a great deal of interest from the public with many onetime hits, probably coming from people who are considering such a treatment.

The second most read item on the California Stem Cell Report is a 2009 item headlined, “Controller Calls for Online Posting of Financial Holdings of CIRM Officials.” It had 2,748 page views. Third is a “pay-for-eggs” item from 2013 that hit 2,487.  That piece involved a commentary in Forbes, which undoubtedly generated abnormally high traffic for the subject.

Our continuing intent has been to delve deeply into a single subject, the California stem cell agency. It is an important experiment in stem cell research funding. Its work has already had a major impact on the field in California. The agency’s success or failure could have major implications for the field and is worthy of considerable attention.

The California Stem Cell Report brings an independent focus to information about the agency. The Report is the only news site devoted exclusively to coverage of the agency and related matters, including analysis and commentary.  The blog provides on-the-scene coverage of the agency's most important public events, either via the Internet or from the sites of the sessions. The blog also explores in more depth California stem cell issues ignored by both the scientific press and the mainstream media. It provides information that can be nowhere else. 

The Internet is well-designed for such a relatively narrowly focused effort as opposed to the mainstream media, which must pursue mass audiences.  Blogs are especially useful in dealing with narrow subjects because of their relatively low production costs, timeliness and lack of space limitations. Newspapers and other mass media, on the other hand, have high costs and extraordinary space limitations as to do all print products. Timeliness can also be issue with some Web sites associated with print.

As for our costs, this blog is produced by one person, David Jensen (yours truly). He is a retired journalist who finances it personally and who has no financial ties to biotech academia or industry,
or the agency. Google does place ads on the site, which generate about $150 every six months or so based on the number of people who click on an ad.

But beginning today this blog is boosting its efforts to cover the costs of the California Stem Cell Report and adding a way to contribute directly to the effort. On this page, you can find a PayPal “donate” button in upper left hand corner. Donate today. It is a way to help keep independent, California stem cell news flowing vigorously. As the California stem cell agency noted last week, “Money matters.”

And thanks to all who are moved to contribute.
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