How bad can journal ad drought get?

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Many primary care journals have gotten dangerously thin this year, with some major medical publishers folding pharma ad revenue-dependent titles or putting them up for sale. How far will the ripple effect go in healthcare publishing?

Morris Levitt, PhD
Managing director, life sciences
DeSilva + Phillips

I don't think the ripple effect on medical specialty magazines will be anywhere near what it's been in primary care. The latter have taken a hit because of the way pharma is focusing on disease-specific marketing. For example, oncology, diabetes, psychiatry, and cardiology are doing well. Another factor in the slide of primary care is the rise in prescribing power of NPs and PAs. We are seeing up to 10% of dollars targeting that fast-growing professional group. That said, to focus only on print to deliver information even to a more specialized medical audience is short-sighted. Healthcare communicators delivering information must be media agnostic, delivering information in print, CME, seminars and promotional material and in various other formats, including online. A strong brand is not enough. Revenue will probably continue to erode without a combination of these other channels.

Thomas O'Connor
Managing director

Demand for high-quality journals is solid in the specialty markets, but in primary care demand slides after the top few titles in each market. There is a flight to quality journals that can reach the audience advertisers want. The volatility in pharma spending, due to factors including the slowdown in drug launches and alternative distribution outlets (i.e., the Internet), will prompt the weaker publications to fold or seek to divest. I have seen several companies successfully use their healthcare publishing content as a base to leverage that content into conferences and promotional activities aimed at the same KOLs who write or read their journals. By repurposing and monetizing content at every opportunity, companies can leverage the core asset into multiple revenue streams. However, not every publisher has the skills to accomplish this mix.

Robert Girondi
E VP, media R&D
Communications Media, Inc.

The current drop in print promotion to PCPs should NOT have a ripple effect on overall professional healthcare promotion. In part, we are seeing the result of fewer new products, and the arrival of more medications which are appropriately, primarily and initially targeted to specialists. Targeting specificity is laudable, but it should not be applied in a manner that fails to satisfy the need to educate and communicate with PCPs who regularly see specialists' patients on a more routine basis and must understand the features, benefits, and potential side effects of all the patients' medications. For virtually every product, there is no substitute for fully integrated, balanced, cost-effective, accountable, consistent, relevant and believable communications that encompass an array of media options specifically designed to reach all appropriate target audiences with proper frequency.

Trevor Deal
Medical Economics Group

It's hard to say just how far the ripple effect will go. Any publication that's solely dependent on pharma ads or a single customer base will be at risk. And considering how slow FDA new drug approvals have been this year, it should come as no surprise that we're having this discussion. This is why we have taken the brand approach by building our project business and launching a variety of other products (conferences, podcasts, e-newsletters, Web seminars and This allows us to capture more budget and expand our customer base to financial, technology, recruitment and other non-pharma categories. We will also be adding CME to Medical Economics in 2008—another way of strengthening our reader offering and increasing our value.

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