‘Big Players Getting Physician Eyeballs’? Not Necessarily Online
Updates from the DeSilva + Phillips HealthCare Media M&A Summit.
The focus of Thursday’s DeSilva + Phillips Healthcare Media M&A Summit was the need for media to respond to the many changes on the health care front. One key change is the growing threat of communicational disconnect between doctors and their patients, information sources and pharmaceutical companies. Speakers throughout the day-long summit addressed this impact and discussed solutions for both consumer and b-to-b publishers.
Doctor-Patient Disconnect: An Opportunity for Consumer Media
Health care media need to be “ambassadors” between physician and patient, Meg Columbia-Walsh, managing partner and president of consumer and eBusiness for CommonHealth, said during the summit. Patients, as consumers, have changed—they want more autonomy over health care decisions and try to gain it by sharing stories with one another and seeking out their own information. So, they turn to media where they hope to hear their beliefs reinforced, as well as positive constructed truths.
To meet this change, Walsh suggests an emphasis on two concepts: “Motivational Efficacy” and effective packaging of information. The former is a term she names in an approach to replace Direct-to-Consumer and Customer Relationship Management efforts. “CRM is killing everyone,” she said, “and behavior modifications are like homework, way too much.” Instead, her concept of Motivational Efficacy takes a lesson from figures like Oprah, who have gained a loyal following—an equivalent, in this case, to securing prescription compliance—through positive reinforcement.
To elucidate the latter, the need for packaged information, Walsh made a comparison to Whole Foods: as a consumer, she goes into the store and buys their products, at a higher price than other stores, trusting that it will contain everything she needs in high quality. “Package it for me. It’s about service. I’ll pay more if the information is packaged,” she said. “Who is going to be the Whole Foods? Are you paying attention to how the consumer behaves? Consumers will go around you if you don’t give them all the information together.”
When asked with which media type her model works best, she said, “It’s not a matter of which media type works but how they’re used. As a consumer, you might hit me a little on TV, definitely on the Internet. You’ll certainlyhit me in print. The only indulgence I have is flipping through that magazine. I don’t know who said that it’s going away.”
Linking Doctors with Content: Best Practices from B-to-B
Mike Squires—VP, special projects, Elsevier Health Sciences—leads development for several e-products at the company, including Elsevier’s Global Medical News wire service and its International Medical News Group initiatives. Those include its e-newsletters, which are sent out two to four times per week, and its podcasts which are distributed through MedicalNewsPodcasts.com and iTunes, receiving 10,000 downloads per month.
“Years ago, we weren’t using all that technology,” said Squires. “Now, according to Manhattan Research, physicians are ahead of the curve, twice as likely to listen to a podcast or go online for information.”
Those who meet this change, according to Sally Shankland, CEO of CMPMedia, are the “big players getting physician eyeballs,” while some traditional publishers have missed the boat.
“At first, big medical publishers thought that if you had to focus on one thing, it would be content. If you have incredible content, people will read your journal online and you’ll make more money,” she said. “But in the online space, those who came from that background made a mistake. They needed to move away from content as the driving force online. That’s a pretty significant shift for those of us coming from big journals.”
Art Wilschek, executive director of advertising sales at the New England Journal of Medicine, says NEJM’s beta site has taken an even more direct approach to assessing physician needs. Its beta site, with 1.4 million unique visitors, was redesigned based on solicited feedback from 5,000 doctor votes and more than 3,000 user comments. NEJM’s site adds one to two features per week, including clinical videos.
Online Advertising Opportunities
With strict regulations on sales rep promotional efforts, pharmaceutical companies need to seek other solutions for reaching both physicians and consumers, but publishers say advertising revenue is down. According to Morris Levitt, DeSilva + Phillips director of life sciences, journal advertising is down to 2 percent of total $19.7 billion promotional spending.
Some publishers have sought to bolster online ad revenue through newer features. Squires at Elsevier says their podcasts are single-sponsored weekly by pharmaceutical companies. Shankland of CMP Medica says they provide “contextual” advertising, with search results bearing the ads of relevant sponsors.
NEJM’s online revenue is mostly through site licensing to hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. “Advertising is a small part of the picture,” Wilschek said.
Darren Brodeur, CEO and publisher at MBL Communications, said that they base less than 20 to 25 percent of their revenue on advertising.
Breaking Down the Market
Walsh of CommonHealth, said that media need to “come up with patient types” to better target consumers. Similarly, CMP Medica’s Shankland said that “physicians in different specialities search in different ways.”
Peter Frishauf, founder of Medscape and SCP Communications, said this type of search is where online is headed: from 2.0’s user-generated to 3.0’s semantic web. “We have a long way to go,” he said, “to get to where we need to be, where we will know answers to questions through search without poking around extensively through irrelevant pages.”