Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Crossing the Two Million Mark: A Dozen Years of Readership on the California Stem Cell Report

Google's page view count for the California Stem Cell
Report as of 11:01 a.m. today 
The California Stem Cell Report this morning hit a readership milestone -- two million page views.

The count was recorded only about 18 months after chalking up one million page views, a number that took 10 years to reach. The blog began publication in January 2005, just as the Golden State's stem cell agency was getting underway. Since then 4,492 items have appeared. 

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 California Stem Cell Report (CSCR) is somewhat unique. It is the only independent web site devoted to the $3 billion ($6 billion if you count interest costs) California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is formally known. The report was created to dig deeply into the agency, focusing largely on public policy and economic issues and recording the agency's activities.


David Jensen, Mazatlan, Mexico
The blog is published and written by David Jensen, a retired editor and journalist who spent most of his career at The Sacramento Bee, but who also worked seven years for United Press International and two years as a press aide to Gov. Jerry Brown (1974-76). Over the last 12 years, Jensen has covered the agency while living on a sailboat as it navigated the west coasts of Mexico and Central America. He traveled back to California from time to time for meetings of the agency and interviews with its leaders.

As reported in 2015, the one-million figure then and the two-million figure now are both large and small. The figures are picayune compared to the readership for major news sites. But they are relatively large given the size of the potential audience.

The report's long-time estimate has been that only about 3,000 to 4,000 persons worldwide are deeply interested in stem cell matters. When Randy Mills, former president of the stem cell agency, heard the estimate last year, he said he thought the number was even less. 

The readership for the blog is mostly found in the United States, according to Google's statistics. But a significant component comes from Europe as well. Readers range from individuals seeking information about stem cell therapies to folks at such places as the National Institutes of Health, major research institutions in California and elsewhere including Harvard, Cedars-Sinai, Sanford-Burnham, Stanford, UC San Francisco, UC Irvine

The most highly read article during the past 12 years deals with the cost of a stem cell therapy. It has had 23,498 page views, far beyond the second best-read piece that counted 2,754 page views. Presumably the "cost" piece drew considerable attention from persons considering a stem cell treatment. The No. 2 article dealt with a call by the state controller for online posting of the economic interests of members of the CIRM governing board.

The blog has also served as a starting point or helpful reference for many journalists looking into the agency and has been described as "indispensable" by Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik

The blog began shortly after the passage of the 2004 ballot initiative that created the agency and provided the bond funding for the program. CIRM is unique in California history and is one of the largest, if not the largest, single source in the world of funding for stem cell research, especially involving human embryonic stem cells. CIRM has had a major impact on stem cell science in California and has helped to sustain research interest in the field at a time when others were wary of involvement.

Its birth was unusual, probably the only scientific research effort ever triggered by the use of petitions signed by more than one million voters and then placed on the ballot for further voter approval. It additionally represents a rare confluence of big science, big business, big academia, big government, big politics, religion, morality and life and death. 

The blog itself is financed personally by Jensen, 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. A crowd funding pitch awhile back was unsuccessful. However, the blog does spin off occasional freelance pieces to The Sacramento Bee and Capitol Weekly Sphere: Related Content

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