WebMD Sale: Implications for DTC marketers

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: The correlation between traffic for a healthcare site and ROI is proving more elusive as consumers spend more time debating various treatment options yet drugmakers continue down a path of “build it and they will come”.  Think of the journey to treatment rather than just a digital component.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”null”]The Financial Times reported this morning that WebMD is considering selling all or parts of its online business.[/inlinetweet] A shock? It shouldn’t be. Although WebMD is the number one online health portal in the end it was just another media property in an era of infinite choices for online media.  What happened?


1ne: Too big, too much, too complicated- In qualitative research, I heard over and over how older patients, the ones who tend to take more than one Rx found the site hard to navigate with too much information.

2wo: Too many changes in senior management led to low morale.

3hree: Prices for value added pharma programs became too expensive, while ROI was getting harder to prove.

4our: Consumers don’t make healthcare decisions based on information on one site.

5ive: WebMD should have formed an alliance with Manhattan Research to both provide insights to healthcare marketers and demonstrate compelling reasons why WebMD had to be part of their online strategy.  These results should have been presented at every DTC conference throughout the US.


6ix: WebMD was not able to help pharma marketers measure the direct ROI of their value added programs at a time when DTC people are being asked to show ROI for everything.

Unfortunately, one client already emailed this morning asking me if this was a no confidence vote for online marketing.  It isn’t.  People are still going to come to your product website to learn about your product but they are going to fact check your claims on other sites and with social media. Digital, today, is not just a website with online media, it’s understanding the journey of your unique market and keeping your hand on the pulse of where your market is going for information on YOUR product.


DTC marketing is not mass marketing anymore, especially online.  Drug companies keep thinking that patients need them more than they need patients, but that’s not true by a long shot even if you have a better product. Patients want and demand more from their medications. [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]The days of taking a physician prescribed med without learning about are quickly coming to a close.[/inlinetweet]