For all the bullish assessments of the point-of-care space written since news of multimillion-dollar investments in Outcome Health and PatientPoint became public — and there have been many — little attention has been paid to traditional media and its place in the POC pecking order. Rather, brand marketers and their media minions have focused on screens, beacons, and any number of other next-gen digital tchotchkes.

This is why recent POC-centric moves made by giants of the print world have taken the industry by surprise. In an effort to increase its presence in the health-and-wellness space, Hearst acquired Rodale’s global content business, which includes waiting-room mainstays such as Prevention, Women’s Health, and Men’s Health. Condé Nast launched Condé Nast Pharma in April, promising to meld behavioral and HIPAA-compliant medical data analysis with health and wellness content from the network’s portfolio, which includes Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker.

And in July, Time Inc. launched Time Health, a magazine specifically created for the POC environment. So far, each issue has come in at 32 pages, with eight pages of ad space.

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The magazine mixes general health and wellness content with tailored information about specific conditions, says John Kenyon, VP, managing director of POC at Time. It’s a hybrid media model: There are two advertisers per issue, one paid and one non-paid. Three issues have been published to date, showcasing eye health, COPD, and digestive health.

“As advertising inventory is sold, the magazine is built,” Kenyon explains. “The magazine goes where the sponsor wants it to. If all ad space isn’t used, whether it’s unsold or the sponsor chooses not to use it, more editorial is added.”

Time started appealing for POC eyeballs way back in 1992, courtesy of cover wraps for its consumer titles. “The evolution of POC is not accidental,” Kenyon notes. “Patients are thirsty for more information and looking for more accountability. Time brings credibility.”

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Heidi Anderson, SVP, healthcare category at Time, agrees, noting, “Time regularly covers health content. Approximately every sixth Time cover is health-related.”

She adds that Time’s presence at the POC won’t necessarily be limited to print content. “We’re investing heavily in video production to leverage across additional platforms. POC could be one,” she says.

Time’s arrival in physician’s waiting rooms wasn’t received well by WebMD, longtime publisher of a POC title of its own. WebMD sued its former employee Anderson this past April, claiming she took trade secrets relating to WebMD Magazine over to Time.

WebMD Magazine continues to have a formidable presence in waiting rooms. The 12-year-old title, which publishes eight times per year, was redesigned last year in an effort to “look more modern,” says VP and publisher Vanessa Cognard. “Physicians are particular with what they put in their offices. There’s a great accountability to be trusted and have transparency.”

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Given the POC presence of hi-res digital screens teeming with original content — and the mobile screen most every-one has — the question begs asking: In a highly digital world, why are these large media companies going analog?

“What’s old is new again,” quips Nicole Woodland-DeVan, SVP, buying services and deliverables at Compas. “Traditional was held back in our space because of lack of measurability and accountability. Print can serve as a distraction because people are so used to being on a screen.”

That said, Egbavwe Pela, media director at CMI Media, believes Time’s arrival at the POC is worth watching. “The company has been there, but did not have the breadth of understanding,” he explains. “They were coming at POC from a consumer’s lens, not a physician’s lens. It will be interesting to see how [Time Health] evolves over the next few years.”

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The trick for many marketers hoping to capture the attention of waiting-room-bound patients and caregivers is not only that advertising at the POC has changed over the past few years, but so has the definition of “point of care.”

“It can be anywhere,” Cognard says. “WebMD as a company is moving more toward self-care, being there for the consumer all the time. I’d be remiss to say one type of content works better than another, because the patient is media-agnostic.”

However, nearly everyone agrees the POC landscape should include a heavy dose of non-medical content. “Companies such as Time and Hearst realize the benefits of combining health and lifestyle content in a holistic way,” notes Irene Coyne, SVP, media at Publicis Health Media. “People aren’t all about their disease all the time.”

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Similarly, it’s not as if marketers are being asked to choose between digital and traditional media. Top digital POC players PatientPoint and Outcome Health might not roll out the welcome mat for Time and its ilk, but they don’t appear to regard traditional publishers as an existential threat.

Whether a pharma marketer chooses a traditional or digital ad buy, swarming the POC environment is in nobody’s best interest. “Talk to doctors before conducting research and find out what content works best [for them],” says Linda Ruschau, PatientPoint’s chief client officer. “We have to be sensitive to how much we put into doctors’ offices. Tailoring content to specialty is critically important.”

In any event, look for the POC push to continue in the months ahead. While Coyne believes that “no one is doing POC [content] really well right now,” she remains extremely bullish on the space itself. “Doctors’ offices are the most desirable place [for advertisers] to be.”