Reach for the Radio

New XM Radio station puts physicians on call and on the airwaves
Dec 01, 2007

In August, eMarketer reported that Internet ad sales had officially displaced radio ad sales, nabbing the slot of fourth-largest ad medium. That was a huge blow to radio, which receives a sizable chunk of ad dollars from the pharma industry. Now pharma marketers have a new option—ReachMD, a 24-hour satellite radio station that plays content targeted at doctors.

With pharma companies such as Eli Lilly and Amgen on board as advertisers, satellite radio is looking to become the hotbed of custom-tailored information and a great place to drop some ad spend. Pharm Exec talked to Gary Epstein—a former executive at the American Medical Association, now CEO of ReachMD—about the changing face of radio.

Who created ReachMD, and how was it conceived?

The station was founded by a physician, Dr. David Preskill, a practicing ob-gyn in the Chicago area. The concept that Dr. Preskill had goes back to 2005, when he was going back and forth to the hospital to deliver babies and hated the fact that he was in his car so much. He felt that he could use his time in the car to be more productive, more educated and informed about this profession and, in fact, possibly even to get some kind of CME credits for using his car time to listen to important content. Preskill realized that in order to be really successful, you had to get the content in the hands of the doctor.

So when did XM enter the picture?

Preskill cut a deal in early 2007 with XM satellite radio to launch a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week, first-ever radio channel created by medical professionals for medical professionals that is just really interesting and informative for medical professionals and doctors to listen to—and includes CME content for some of our programming. The channel went live on a 24/7 basis in April of this year.

Can you give me an example of the content that you have on the station?

Eli Lilly is sponsoring a series right now called "Advances in Women's Health." For 26 weeks, they will be airing original new programming that we've created and that they are sponsoring, covering topics ranging from osteoporosis to breast cancer to postpartum depression. The show is hosted by two very prominent physicians, Dr. Lisa Mazzullo and Dr. Lauren Streicher.

We have an Amgen-sponsored series called "Innovation in Medicine." That has a lot of content on oncology, new breakthroughs in cancer and cancer research and drug therapies. It also has a lot of content on biotech and things that obviously would be worthwhile for a company like Amgen to sponsor.

Does ReachMD have traditional advertising on the site? How does it handle advertising and sponsorships?

Advertisers have the opportunity to sponsor content or a series, not unlike the way that you might sponsor a public TV show, and have no impact on the content itself. There is also an opportunity to run advertising—we do sell advertising packages on the programming. We have kind of a unique opportunity, because of the way that satellite radio and our programming is done, to actually sell two-minute ads. Because we're talking to healthcare professionals and because our content is more clinical in nature, a lot of the pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers are finding they can have a longer messaging and a more technical advertising sale in this format.

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