When National Geographic acquired ScienceBlogs a few months ago, NG executives and editors immediately faced a problem: How could they justifiably showcase PZ Myers — the marquee talent at ScienceBlogs — when Myers spends much of his time taunting and vilifying religious people?
(From Myers’ atheistic hymnal: “Fuck God.” People of faith are “batshit insane” and “self-righteous pricks” who should “grow the fuck up.” And other nastiness which, for National Geographic, is a bit “off brand.”)
The answer was this compromise: PZ’s blog posts about science still appear at NG’s ScienceBlogs site, but what you might call PZ Unplugged — his science posts plus everything else he wants to write, including his religion rants — are available at a new network called Freethought Blogs.
Given this choice, where do PZ Myers’ fans now go to get their PZ fix? Are they remaining loyal to ScienceBlogs where they can read PZ’s thoughts on cuttlefish? Or have they opted for PZ Unplugged — cuttlefish plus his meditations on public hand jobs — over at Freethought Blogs?
We don’t have access to the traffic data for PZ’s two blogs. But using comments as a rough proxy for traffic, we did a quick comparison. We looked at 19 recent blog posts that were simultaneously published at ScienceBlogs and at Freethought Blogs — same content, different sites — and compared the number of comments per post.
Here’s what we discovered:
It’s early still. Freethought Blogs is just a few months old, and National Geographic hasn’t yet brought its full marketing muscle to promoting ScienceBlogs. But the initial returns suggest that PZ Myers will find his audience, with National Geographic’s help — or without it.
Big media brands: They’re not what they used to be.
Postscript: It’s worth noting that PZ provokes his biggest reactions at Freethought Blogs when he plays the provocateur on religion:
What is she doing? (on what PZ suggests is the biblical justification for public hand jobs): 112 comments*
It made my skin crawl (on biblical marriage): 224 comments*
Ricky Gervais in the New Humanist (on atheism & being offensive): 310 comments*
Seems like Dr. Myers popularity has very little to do with his thoughts on cephalopods.
* total as of 10:30am on September 13, 2011