CME event space heats up

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In the past three months, two business media players-Ascend Media and Reed Exhibitions-have each made significant investments in the burgeoning area of continuing medical education programs (CME).

CME is very important to the medical media market, said Roland DeSilva, managing partner at DeSilva & Phillips, a media investment banking firm. "It's on a very strong growth curve. New [government health care] regulations will only help support it. CME will continue to be a dominant and growing portion of the business."

In November 2004, Reed Elsevier's Reed Exhibitions and Elsevier Health Sciences, its sibling company, announced the launch of Reed Medical Education, a health and medical events group specifically focused on CME in specialty and emerging health care disciplines.

Also in November, Ascend Media acquired SynerMed Communications and subsidiary IMED Communications. SynerMed produces continuing education medical education programs in several media.

Ascend followed up that deal with the December acquisition of Exhibitor Visibility World, a company that provides services for medical and health care events, including producing show dailies. (The two acquisitions were a good fit for Ascend, which in 2003 acquired Atwood Publishing, a company that puts out show dailies, directories and guides for medical events.)

Ascend has been interested in the medical education space since the company was launched in 2002, said Cam Bishop, president-CEO at Ascend. He said the health care market has a growing need for continuing education because of the increasing stringency of Federal Drug Administration guidelines and an increase in the complexity of pharmaceutical products and medical technology.

Ascend's multimedia approach to continuing education includes videotapes, audio CDs, Web-based learning, CD-ROMs, print and live events. Its live events typically take the form of symposiums, roundtables and small-group events, rather than large trade shows.

Reed Exhibitions, a unit of Reed Elsevier Group, decided to form an entire division-Reed Medical Education-a year and a half ago as an extension of what Reed Exhibitions' sibling company, multimedia publisher Elsevier, had been doing with its pharmaceutical events, said Julie Brown, VP-Reed Medical Education. Elsevier specializes in scientific, technical and health information products and services.

"For us it's a market-driven as well as a company-driven [strategy]," she said. "We have an expertise in events, and we have a sister company with a specialization in scientific and medical content, so the opportunity for us makes perfect sense."

The Reed conferences, she said, will focus on medical specialties and subspecialties.

Reed Medical Education's first continuing education event will be Oncology World Congress, a three-day event that kicks off in November in New York. It will be Reed Medical Education's only event in 2005, though the unit has plans to launch three additional shows in 2006.

"There are a lot of research events in oncology," Brown said. "The American Society of Clinical Oncology [which produces conferences] is great, but we want to focus on translating that research into actual practice."

"Based on the reaction, and the needs of the customers and the market that Reed Exhibitions and Reed Elsevier serve, we see this as a very high-growth area for the company," Brown said. "That is driven by the nature of the information needs and the fact that face-to-face delivery is really effective for these complicated, information-driven markets."

Like Ascend's small, focused events, Reed's oncology show is not designed as a trade show. "There will be limited exhibition opportunities. We want to maintain the focus on education and not have it become a sprawling show because there are plenty of those out there," Brown said.

-Sean Callahan contributed to this story.

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