Mobile carries WebMD forward

David Schlanger
David Schlanger

Mobile isn't cannibalizing WebMD's traffic but it is responsible for its jump in page views.

WebMD CEO David Schlanger told investors during Tuesday's after-market earnings call that US smartphones drove 36% of overall page view growth for the fourth quarter of 2014 and that page views on smartphones also grew 36%, compared with the same period the year earlier. Desktops accounted for 27% of the quarter's traffic.

Traffic at the health company's professional site Medscape grew 17% in the fourth quarter of 2014 over the same period in 2013, and the company noted that visitors include not just physicians but members across the healthcare ecosystem, meaning nurses, nurse-practitioners, physician's assistants and pharmacists.

Biopharma took an increased interest in WebMD and accounted for 73% of advertising and sponsorships in 2014. Consumer packaged goods, which include OTC medications and beauty products, served up the balance of the year's advertising, and mobile ads represented about 36% of promotion revenues.

“We are at the point where a majority of the programs we deliver to our advertisers and sponsors include a mobile element,” Schlanger said.

The company expects biopharma will up its advertising and sponsorship presence by between 12% and 15% this year, with overall advertising and sponsorship sales rising by 7% to 11%, or between $486 million and $502 million.

WebMD said it will continue to deepen its efforts to connect doctors with doctors and doctors to their patients. The firm recently launched appointment-booking and a comparison tool patients can use to assess physicians. WebMD said it expects to launch its secure doctor-to-patient messaging system during the first half of this year.

Schlanger noted it was too early to assess the impact Google's Knowledge Graph will have on its business. The info giant started serving up title-card bits of health information with every search this month. It uses information pooled from websites like Mayo Health and information from its in-house professionals to fill the space that appears next to search results.

Schlanger was nonplussed. “It's really a very basic level of information,” Schlanger said, adding that WebMD's goal is to “provide a much deeper level of engagement, a much deeper level of content,” which could in turn drive users to seek out WebMD.


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