Ascend pulls the plug on medical titles

Ascend Media is shedding its titles dependent on pharma ad revenue.

The publisher will close Physician's Money Digest, Family Practice Recertification and Internal Medicine World Report, and is considering selling off the remainder of its Princeton, NJ, healthcare division, which includes Pharmacy Times, Surgical Rounds, Resident & Staff Physician, Cardiology Review and The American Journal of Managed Care. Most employees on the three titles closing will be let go, and it is unclear whether Will Passano, who heads the healthcare division, will remain with the company.

The Overland, KS-based firm will divest its dental group, comprised of Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, Contemporary Esthetics, Contemporary Oral Hygiene and Contemporary Dental Assisting.

The publisher is holding onto its 14 LA-based Allied Healthcare titles, which are less exposed to the fallout from declining spending in the pharmaceutical sector. The division, including niche titles like Hearing Review, Medical Imaging and Plastic Surgery Products, only receives around 10% of its ad revenue from pharmas, the remainder coming from device manufacturers and services, said Ascend president and CEO Cameron Bishop. Ascend will also hold on to its event media division in Kansas, which works with healthcare trade associations to develop print and online products for their events, as well as its New Jersey-based medical education unit and Practice Builders, in Orange County, CA.

The moves, first reported in Folio, reflect the ugliness of the market for medical journals, particularly primary care titles hit by a dearth of new launches. “There just isn't the focus on communicating messages in the primary care sector,” said Bishop, noting that ad pages for many leading journals are off 20% or more. “If the dominant books are off that much, it's a safe bet that second-tier titles are as well, if not more so.”

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