MediZine's Unique Business Model Serves It Well

Jan 01, 2001

In the publishing world, it's not uncommon for a magazine's ads to be related to its story topics. Sales pitches to prospective advertisers are often based on the editorial content that's scheduled to run in a given issue. But MediZine Guidebook, a quarterly consumer healthcare digest, takes that approach one step further, basing story ideas on advertisers' products.

For example, MediZine's fall/winter cover story features Rita Moreno's tips for avoiding osteoporosis paired with an ad from Merck-maker of the osteoporosis treatment Fosamax (alendronate)-urging women to get bone-density tests. Moreno does not suffer from osteoporosis, but the article says she is undergoing treatment to strengthen her hipbone in an effort to prevent onset of the disease.

According to Traver Hutchins, founder and CEO of MediZine, advertisers have no control over his magazine's content. "Pharmacies pay us for an objective read for their patients," he says. "We also take the information available from FDA, as well as double-blind studies conducted in the United States, and boil it all down into laymen's terms."

MediZine's business model may blur the lines between editorial and advertising content, but it seems to be working-ad revenue more than doubled since 1999 and hit $10 million in 2000. It bypasses the traditional circulation avenues, newsstands and subscriptions, to go where consumers look for health information. MediZine can be found in 55 of the United States' 60 drug chains and in 100,000 doctors' offices.

In the process, MediZine circumvents worries such as battling for exposure on overflowing newsstands and compensating for the rising costs of postage. Instead, it co-brands with the pharmacies that carry it for a fee of 14 cents per issue and gets free delivery to its target audience.

Hutchins says he got the idea for MediZine from a 1990 law requiring pharmacists to counsel Medicare and Medicaid patients about their prescriptions. Hutchins created the guidebook to fulfill that need and to take advantage of a targeted market-visitors to the pharmacy counter or the doctor's office.

"The big criticism of DTC is that so many messages fall on deaf ears because there's no way for mass media to target those who have a disease," Hutchins says. "So they spend and spend and spend in the hope of finding a needle in a haystack. With MediZine, we're able to reach a very high concentration of people suffering from various ailments."

MediZine has done well in that market. It was named the 11th-largest magazine in the United States-just behind People-and its circulation has outpaced even longtime leader Prevention.

The magazine's latest venture is on the Internet, where it provides news, information, and pharmacy links to subscribing drug chains for an annual fee of $50,000–$100,000. It also compiles health news from top online content providers, including Medical Economics, Screaming Media, First Data Bank, and

"There are more than 15,000 sites on the Web with health content," Hutchins says. "But because we picked the top information providers out there and combined them all into one super site, we've got something different."

MediZine will continue to expand in 2001, adding prevention and wellness topics to its traditional pharmaceutical fare. Hutchins also has plans for custom publications-for example, an advertiser-sponsored supplement about lowering cholesterol.

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