Health Publishers to Make Mad Bank

AdAge recently posted about an eMarketer study stating that changing federal drug marketing laws and the targeting the web allows that pharmaceutical companies are ramping up online spending:

More than most industries, pharmaceutical companies have wised up to the web's ability to target unique audiences with specific needs. As a result, the industry will increase online spending by about 25% this year, to $780 million, according to an eMarketer report released this week.

What I find disturbing is not that they want to spend more on marketing, but that major publishers have already taken that message to heart and have went on record stating that they are growing out their sites based specifically on the revenue potential:

For Scott Meyer, CEO of About, the decision was simple. "There's a very fast-growing market on the advertising side," Mr. Meyer said. "Health is not the only vertical we want to build out, but it's the biggest opportunity for ad revenue."

Marjorie Martin, general manager for About Health, is leading the charge in custom-branded content with exclusive advertisers. "There's huge interest from advertisers to closely associate themselves with a particular issue."

Is there any chance of objectivity if the content is built around a pre requested issue, angle, and ad creative by an exclusive advertiser? Why would the NYT go on record with this as being their official position?

Being human means we all have some inherent flaws. Some drug companies will create drugs based around masking the fact that we are human (at least temporarily). Then those drug companies will pay respected wide reaching publishers to create custom content based on spreading a marketing message they want people to find when people are actively trying to solve the problem of being human.

How much money will emotions like depression be worth to publishers? Will people be able to find accurate information if traditionally well trusted publishers are leveraging their authority to create custom advertising opportunities for the people with the greatest profit potential in spreading misinformation or a biased view of the world to a desired audience one at a time?

Published: August 21, 2006 by Aaron Wall in marketing


August 27, 2006 - 7:31am

Aaron, there is another group of publishers, like myself, who have a different agenda. When my father retired from being a math professor, he took up two activities to pay the bills. One was getting back to an early love of his, homeopathic and naturopathic medicine.

As he's 75 now and never blogged, I'm helping set up his weblog/ website, editing his research to make it more blog-like, link-building, etc. There aren't any pages yet because I need to do my own research first. I want my editing to be credible. But we've agreed to split the revenue 50-50.

My plan for my earnings is to donate a sizable percentage of it to health-related charities, including sick children's hospitals and depression hotlines.

I'm hoping that other health site publishers do something similar.

August 21, 2006 - 3:00pm

This is great news for health publishers. Heck I even run a pharmacy related site but I don't sell advertising on it yet.

In the end this is a business with shareholders and no different than tabacco or big oil.


August 21, 2006 - 6:30pm


You've been predicting this incipient boom for a while - I think your posts are prescient on this.

And your ambivalence about whether or not the mass marketing of drugs is a good idea is spot on as well.

Our health system adds to the problem. Most doctors are heavily lobbied by pharma companies, and our insurance regime prevents most people from understanding the costs of healthcare. I'm for more open pricing and information.

Maybe that's something good the web could bring to the system. Sources of information not biased by doctors in the pay of the pharma companies. (Hmmm.. I wonder).

Beyond all of that, do you have any advice on how to get a pharmacy code so one can buy ads on google in this sector? :)

August 21, 2006 - 7:43pm

Aaron - great info. Of course, soon we will se an even greater flood of health-related splogs springing up as everyone tries to capitalize on the extra advertising dollars... Any time an announcement like this comes out, the spam in that particular field increases correspondingly...

Better Rankings
September 13, 2007 - 10:28pm

This is a very interesting topic.... there are a lot of things going on..... Ethics, Money, Business Savvy... etc. but the bottom line is this..... If big pharma starts getting bigger on the net... and throws more money into it... which obviously they are starting to do... a lot of people are going to chase after those dollars... and create a lot of online conent to benefit from that... most of this content will be crappy at best... and consumers.. will definetly not benefit from bad advice.... but its a market economy..... and everytime there is Demand for something.... There will be a supplier.

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