Genomics Blog

May 5, 2010 8:30 PM
Social Media - Master or Slave or Just Plain Inconvenient
Filed Under: Mikenomics

The Think and Drink panel I was on today at BIO 2010 with Mary Canady founder of Comprendia in San Diego and Karl Haro von Mogel, a PhD student at University of Wisconsin - Madison was actually called "Social Media - Master or Slave".
Jerry Johnson moderated the panel and there was some good discussion and points raised, but we probably should have considered adding "Inconvenient " to the panel title based on an experience earlier in the day.
Here goes...

Al Gore owes much of his success to the media - old and new. If his ideas had first started to make the rounds a couple of decades ago he may not have been able to spread his inconventient truth quite so fast. He would have had to hit the old-fashioned lecture circuit, worked newsroom around the country, and paid for ads to get people to come out to see him. When "An Inconvenient Truth" - the book came out there would have been never ending book signings, more paid ads and interviews with small town radio and TV hosts who hadn't bothered to read the book. When "An Inconvenient Truth" - the Movie came out, there would be more paid ads, more intervies, and reviews written up in newspapers wherever the movie was screened.
No online trailers, no fan pages, and no online conversations about the issues or the VHS tape.
Biotech is in much the same position. Twenty years the industry could pick and choose what it wanted to say, where it wanted to say it and generally pick the audience. Industry could pretty much manage the message.

But it is 2010.

Al Gore has access to online tools to spread the word. Fans form their own discussion groups online. Bloggers talk about him and about his ideas. A DVD fits into a little envelope to be mailed anywhere and can be watched while you're on the plane or sitting at home. It all takes on a life of its own. The biotech industry has to battle it out in online trenches, tweets from cell phones offer up opinions about GM foods, and big pharma can take a beating.
The communications landscape has changed except in a corner of Chicago today.
Al Gore was the keynote speaker and many of use were looking forward to hearing him and to even the short 5 minute media availability. When 12:40 rolled around we were all lead up to the hall where introduction were already taking place and we were put in the back 3 rows of the room and after 5 minutes of Mr. Gore's speech we were lead out again.
Meanwhile the attendees in the room could use their smartphone to tweet, take pictures, roll a little video, and generally share the experience.
By the time we sat down for the panel discussion later in the afternoon the somewhat odd 'availability' was the subject of discussion and not the ideas or content.
The event had turned its back on the very tools that had a signifcant role in the success of Mr. Gore. The conference had missed an opportunity to take a very positive message about biotechnology and put it out to a much bigger world.
The same scenario played out yesterday when George Bush and Bill Clinton spoke at the keynote.
Here's how BioWorld Today led their story:

"Bio 2010: No Soup for You! Media Banned
Bush, Clinton (Reportedly) Talk Biotech During Keynote Lunch
Chicago - If two former U.S. presidents shared the stage to talk about the impact of the biotech industry and members of the press were not allowed to attend and report on it, did it really happen? "


It was an opportunity missed for our industry.
Here is what we did get to see: