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WSJ.com adds health care site

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Dow Jones & Co. is building out The Wall Street Journal Online as part of an overall corporate strategy to diversify an ad base that has grown too dependent on financial services and technology advertisers.

WSJ.com in July launched Health Industry Edition, the first of what’s expected to be several vertical b-to-b Web properties. The health care site, Wallstreet-journal.com/health, is the first extension of WSJ.com, the largest paid-subscription news site on the Web, with 646,000 subscribers.

With the downturns in financial services and technology, the two sectors it relies on most, Dow Jones is reaching out to other markets.

"We want to use the Web to grow new pockets of our audience," said Scott Schulman, president of Dow Jones’ consumer electronic publishing, who is responsible for the company’s b-to-b Web properties. It hasn’t yet been determined what additional markets WSJ.com wants to pursue, but the game plan is to pick broad sectors similar to health care.

Looking outside WSJ.com

Dow Jones is betting that the health care site will attract b-to-b executives who subscribe to specialized health care trade publications. "There are a lot of business people who may not subscribe [to WSJ.com] but are interested in the content," Schulman said. "We’ll package the content for people in the medical industry."

Joel Novak, managing director of media merchant bank Veronis, Suhler & Associates, said it would be a challenge even for a news authority such as WSJ.com to attract health care professionals. "The key question is whether executives who already pay for controlled circulation [health care] titles will want to pay for access," he said. "But The Wall Street Journal imprimatur helps a great deal." The annual subscription for the health care site is $79, or $39 per year for Wall Street Journal or Barron’s subscribers.

Dow Jones, still struggling with the ad slump, may have to be patient before it can expand WSJ.com beyond the health care site. Advertising linage at the company’s flagship publication, The Wall Street Journal, fell 20.8% on a per-issue basis in the second quarter, and it is expected to drop 8% to 12% in the third quarter. Dow Jones’ electronic publishing revenues decreased 2% in the second quarter to $78.6 million, due to a drop in ad revenue.

Widest net is in health care

Several factors made health care the obvious first choice for Dow Jones’ effort to enhance its b-to-b presence online. New drugs are being developed at a furious clip, and hardly a day goes by when there isn’t a major health care story in the news. The health/pharmaceutical industry has the third-largest market capitalization of all major industries, at $2.3 billion, while trade publication advertising spending for the industry is $920 million a year.

Advertising culled from WSJ.com already appears on the health care site. More targeted advertising—from pharmaceutical marketers, biotech companies, benefit managers, health care providers, insurers and companies marketing medical products—will start running after Labor Day.

Karen Pinsky, director of corporate advertising for Agilent Technologies Inc., which provides products for the life sciences, communications and electronics industries, said the new site gels with the company’s marketing.

"It not only targets hospitals but people doing drug research and development, and those are the people we’re trying to reach," she said, adding that Agilent will advertise on the site through the end of August. "What’s different is that it’s a broad Web site that’s been verticalized."

Links to Personal Journal

The health care site features prominent links to Personal Journal, a section that runs Tuesday through Thursday in The Wall Street Journal and routinely covers health care. Personal Journal was introduced in April as part of a comprehensive redesign of the print edition.

Despite the poor ad climate, there’s been "significant advertising growth" in Personal Journal, said Steve Howe, VP-publisher of The Wall Street Journal. He said Dow Jones does not break out ad page revenue for individual newspaper sections. Recent advertisers running in Personal Journal included Dreyfus Service Corp., The Hertz Corp. and Hyatt Corp.

"We’ve had a solid increase from travel, jet ownership, consumer and luxury auto," Howe said. "We’re quite pleased with how the ad lineage is shaping up this summer, and we have good trending in the fall."

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