Alternative Media: The Health Portal Race - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Alternative Media: The Health Portal Race
How can pharma capitalize on the competition heating up among health Web sites?


Pharmaceutical Executive


MSN To add a dark horse into this race, MSN unveiled health condition channels that are independent from WebMD. In the past, all health content that was housed on MSN was provided by WebMD and offered for distribution when advertisers purchased programs with WebMD. This meant MSN could not sell its own health content effectively, as WebMD owned most of the health buys. (WebMD continues to partner with AOL for distribution, which allows AOL to feature WebMD's syndicated content but not its own health content or advertisers.)

In the coming year, both Yahoo! and MSN are poised to take on WebMD with their tremendous reach, targeting capabilities, relatively easy and direct ad-server and agency synergies, and relevant content. WebMD, in turn, has announced new distribution partners— http://CBSnews.com/, http://Medicinenet.com/ and http://FOXnews.com/. to start—in hopes that they will more than fill the enormous gap in distribution left by MSN's departure, while further expanding reach.

The Race More competitors mean advertisers will have more leverage in negotiating deals with WebMD. For WebMD, this marketplace shift may result in demands for lower CPMs than it has enjoyed in the past.

The race among health information portals also may result in more and better content offerings for consumers. That means advertisers that move first can buy out targeted inventory within desired conditions at a good rate.

On the downside, the glut of available content across many sites may fragment target audiences, just as the explosion of cable channels has fragmented TV audiences. For that reason, it's more important than ever to have experienced media planners who know how and when to buy out sites that can deliver desired scale and targetability.

For portals, that means stiffer competition that may lead to more deal-sweeteners for advertisers, including:
Exclusivity within disease-specific categories (ranging from a quarter to a year)
Robust back-end data/reporting that includes cost per educated visitor, intent to visit the doctor, and brand-lift tracking
Reasonable out-clauses allowing clients to cancel underperforming commitments or to cease advertising in case of FDA status changes
Visitor and/or traffic guarantees
Rich media acceptance

The market moves quickly, so pharma must be ready to jump into the online health content boom. Agile companies will pick up additional inventory or preferred pricing by leveraging various partners against one another or taking advantage of first-mover opportunities.

Debrianna Obara is media director ofAvenue A/Razorfish.She can be reached at


Bryan Hill
People Online marketers, Cadient Group hired Alex Vandevere and Geoff McCleary as senior marketing strategists. Bryan Hill was promoted to senior director of global technology.

Accounts United BioSource selected DataLabs as its partner in electronic data capture technology. Prairie Education and Research Cooperative also chose DataLabs to provide the company with electronic clinical data management technology. Epsilon, part of Alliance Data Systems, created a comprehensive customer database for Pfizer. ChartConnect, DOCS, LighthouseMD, McKesson, Mednet System and NewCrop became SureScripts Certified Solution Providers. LifeTree eClinical partnered with Novotech.


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