It's the latest big play for Time Inc. as it searches for the growth demanded by its parent, Time Warner, and from Wall Street. Already it has poured resources into digital media while steadily cutting print costs and headcount. Time Inc., in fact, seems likely to be the next Time Warner unit to draw scrutiny from new CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, who has already decided to spin cable off entirely. Showing some ad revenue growth in big categories such as pharmaceutical and over-the-counter remedies would be more than welcome.
"Time Inc. has been tremendously successful over the years in print with pharma and OTC," said John Brown, Health.com's general manager. "Then you say, 'What are we doing online?'"
Health.com has been a "brochure site" for Health magazine, part of Time Inc.'s Southern Progress unit. "It's not remarkable," Mr. Brown said. "Lots of magazines have sites that represent the look and feel and breadth of their print products. But that's not where the game is for the health category and that's not where we're going."
The new Health.com will include wide-ranging content provided by Healthwise, a nonprofit provider of consumer health information; searches by symptom, drug name or alternative remedy; lifestyle and wellness content from Health magazine; an area devoted to food and dieting; and community functions such as blogs and posting capabilities.
Its chief challenge will be finding a place in the established ecosystem of health information online. The current leaders comprise WebMD, with 19.9 million unique visitors in April, according to ComScore Media Metrix; Waterfront Media's Everyday Health, with 14.7 million uniques; AOL Body, with 12.1 million; Mr. Case's Revolution Health, with 11.5 million; and the federal government's site for the National Institutes for Health at NIH.gov, with 9.6 million.
Health.com didn't even approach the top 20 sites with its 163,000 unique visitors in April. It hopes to draw new traffic, in part, by syndicating its content and promoting the site with a big ad campaign this summer.
As for the print business, ad pages in Health magazine fell 4.9% in the first quarter this year after climbing 5.4% in 2007 and dropping 5.5% in 2006, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.