A newish social networking site for US doctors, Sermo, has an unusual business model. The site is (unsurprisingly) free for doctors (and some 31,000 have apparently joined to date) and the owners have also promised to keep the site clear of advertising, because:
Sermo is extremely professional. It is free of advertising and pharmaceutical promotion
So how do they plan to make money? Their idea is based on
“information arbitrage”, the opportunity that arises when breaking medical insights intersect with the demand for actionable, market-changing events in healthcare
In other words, they want to charge pharmacos, financial institutions, healthcare companies and others to participate and listen in on the community:
Clients pay a subscription fee and in return can post questions to the Sermo community. If you vote on one of these postings, you may be financially rewarded for your astute observations....
As the WSJ notes, this looks like a risky strategy for both parties. It’s not obvious to me that doctors will prefer to “talk candidly” with Pfizer’s shills over having to endure advertising on the site, and given the attention the pharma industry has received for some of its more dubious marketing practices (such as ghost-writing) and what has been seen as its undue influence over the whole medical profession (including, let us not forget, medical publishing), the arrangements are likely to come under some scrutiny from regulators.
Peter Suber at 10/21/2007 11:00:00 AM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.