Inside HMP’s Pivot from Print Publisher to Multi-Channel Events Business
A Q&A with Jeff Hennessy, chairman and CEO of the healthcare media, events, and education company.
HMP Communications Holdings, a B2B media, events, and education provider to the healthcare industry, has been dedicated to improving patient care in the therapuetic markets it serves since its founding in 1986.
Over the past several years, however, the company has undergone a period of rapid growth and transformation, beginning most notably with the 2008 acquisition of Princeton Media Associates, a "game-changing acquisition," says chairman and CEO, Jeff Hennessy, which doubled the company's size.
Folio: caught up with Hennessy to learn more about the company's transition, reducing its dependence on print, and why now is such an exciting time to be a media company in the healthcare industry.
Folio: Tell us a little bit more about HMP's strategy behind its recent evolution.
Jeff Hennessy: In 2010, we made a strong decision to pivot toward live events. We wanted to diversify revenue. The print business has been relatively stable, but we wanted to reduce it as a percentage of our revenue.
We had a core competency in events. For example, we are the organizers of the largest wound care meeting in the world, the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care, the spring edition of which will mark its 30th year in 2017.
We knew that was an area in which we could survive and thrive. The event business is a wonderful business. It’s proven, well-established, and it's got its own ecosystem. It’s wonderfully diversified when you think about attendee revenue, sponsorship revenue, advertising revenue, exhibitor revenue — and, in the education business, you also have grant support. Overall, it fit very well with our core competency. We made a strong pivot towards an events-first focus.
Folio: How has that shift been borne out?
Hennessy: In 2010, we were probably somewhere in the neighborhood of about 60 percent print. Today, we’re more in the range of 30 percent print. Fifty percent of our business is live events, 30 percent is print and about 20 percent is digital, so that’s been a major shift for us.
Folio: Why is the events business immune to those same concerns about print as a dominant revenue source?
Hennessy: It's the peer-to-peer influence and contact. The ability to access key opinion leaders on a face-to-face basis is truly unique. It’s something that the digital world hasn’t necessarily displaced. Digital is really a great asset to the live-event world. We are still very much a multimedia company, and we leverage our over 20 different digital assets to help us grow the event business.
Folio: What are some of the ways you're doing that?
Hennessy: We have 15 print publications and 20 digital sites, all of which are content-driven. We are producing high-quality educational content for all healthcare professionals across a number of different therapeutic areas. The ultimate mission of the company is that we’re trying to improve patient care. We deliver that content in print, digitally, and through our live events, and the three work very synergistically together.
Print is still a viable source of communication and one of the most effective marketing tools we have when you look at the data points of what helps to drive attendees to our meetings. People respond when they see a print brochure. It’s a great merchandiser of the event. It shows you that print is still viable, even though it's competing with a lot of other sources of information.
Folio: So it's really a matter of print, as a medium, taking on a different role?
Hennessy: That’s the way we look at it. It still has a role, but there’s no question it’s a reduced role.
Folio: Why has HMP's print business remained steady? What's gone right?
Hennessy: I think a lot of that has to do with the healthcare community. Physicians and other healthcare professionals still like to read their stories, their more clinical stuff, in print. It’s been more of an evolution than a revolution.
Folio: How did you go about shifting the revenue mix so drastically in just six years?
Hennessy: Our mission is to grow both organically and through acquisitions. We look at our therapeutic categories and we look to make sure that we have a multimedia presence there. Where we don’t have a strong meeting, we look to either launch one or acquire one. That depends on the marketplace and a number of other factors.
Folio: How do you identify the markets you want to expand into? Is it a matter of recognizing areas into which you're already well suited to expand, or seeing voids in the marketplace?
Hennessy: It’s a combination of both. As it relates to something like neurology, we recognize the synergistic relationship with what we do in psychiatry and our ability to step into that space. Then there are other areas, like oncology, which is a large growing market with a tremendous need for education. There’s a lot of dynamic things going on in oncology right now, and we felt like it was an area we could get into to service that marketplace.
Folio: We've heard a lot about the rise of data as a marketing or audience acquisition tool. Is there anything you’re doing in that space?
Hennessy: Data becomes more of a presence in our event meetings and our marketing meetings every week. What we’re trying to understand of our customers is what they want to see, as opposed to just a "one-size-fits-all" strategy. If we can provide content they want every day, and take away what they don’t want, we become more valuable to our customers.
Folio: You mentioned that events are attractive because of the diversity in revenue sources. What about on the media side of things?
Hennessy: About 10 percent of our busines is what I call user-paid content, either attendee fees or on-demand revenue where people pay to see our content. We also have controlled circulation for our print publications. The model around the rest of our business is advertising and promotional based, as well as custom content.
Folio: What have been some of the biggest shifts you've seen in the business since joining HMP in 2008?
Hennessy: The growth in digital has obviously been the major shift in media. In the healthcare business, one of the major transformations has been the move in the last three-to-five years toward value-based decision making and precision medicine, which is a new science. There’s really cool stuff going on in the healthcare industry that is effectively combining clinical effectiveness with cost efficiency. It’s really exciting. It’s what makes it fun to be in media and communications in the healthcare business. It’s really a revolutionary time.