Intended for healthcare professionals

News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Only 6% of drug advertising material is supported by evidence

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7438.485-a (Published 27 February 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:485

Re: "Misleading" Advertising by Drug Companies and BMJ

I fail to see how drawing attention to the fact that bmj.com tops the
list of results when Google is searched for "medical journal" is
misleading.

It's what happened when the advertisement was planned and it was
still true a minute ago. The list went bmj.com, the free medical journals
website, the Medical Journal of Australia, the Southern Medical
Journal,the Irish Medical Journal, the Canadian Medical Association
Journal, and so on.

The ad appeared in the paper version of the BMJ, which goes mainly to
members of the British Medical Association as a benefit of membership.
According to our research, only 8% of BMA members access the website in
any week, which we think is a shame because the website has lots of
interesting features, not least of which is rapid responses.
(see: http://bmj.com/aboutsite/quest2003/ for research)

As most members were probably aware of the pre-eminence of Google, we
thought a gentle reminder that this powerful search engine was listing
"their" website as the number one search result for "medical journal"
might prompt a visit from them out of curiosity.

It's Mago and Tripathi who have decided that "the obvious
implication" of the ad was that we were claiming bmj.com as "the best
medical journal website." But we never made that claim. As is widely
known, Google uses a complicated algorithm to determine its listing order.
The last time I heard they took 17 variables into account, with the most
important being the number of links to a site weighted by the reputation
of the linking sites.

(For a brief description of Google's PageRank tool, see:
http://www.google.com/technology/index.html)

If this is true, then a tentative claim could be made for bmj.com
being the most useful website with "medical journal" in its name. But we
didn't even go that far in our advertisement.

Competing interests:
As editor of bmj.com, I'm probably over sensitive to criticisms of it.

Competing interests: No competing interests

08 March 2004
Tony Delamothe
web editor
BMA House, Tavistock Sq, London WC1H 9JR