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Health Content Network Builds A Strategy Around Consumers' Search Habits

A network of sites focused on specific topics such as HealthCentral's BipolarConnect.com and MyAsthmaCentral.com hopes to draw more "qualified" sets of consumers for advertisers than its more established rivals.
If search engines shape the way consumers find things on the Web, they do the same for the way advertisers find consumers. A fledgling network of consumer health sites wants to turn that seemingly obvious reality into ad dollars.

Google and other engines encourage people to find health-related content through keyword searches rather than by visiting big portal sites that provide a breadth of information on several topics, HealthCentral CEO Chris Schroeder says. For that reason, networks of sites focused on specific topics such as HealthCentral's BipolarConnect.com or MyAsthmaCentral.com can draw consumers who are considered better targets by advertisers, he says.

Schroeder hit on the idea of building a health site network when he was CEO of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. "We grew very large traffic at Washingtonpost.com, but literally 85% of it came from people entering our site at the article level, not the main page," he says.

The network approach has worked for groups of sites geared toward business or trade audiences, but has been attempted rarely--if ever--by ad-driven networks targeting consumers. Schroeder says HealthCentral will have an edge over existing portal-style health sites such as WebMD at attracting pharmaceutical firms and other advertisers that want access to specific sets of consumers.

Schroeder pulled together investors to acquire Choice Media last summer for an undisclosed amount. The transaction brought four sites, including Dr. Koop. The network has since grown to 30 sites, 25 of them built by the company itself, which last month took the name HealthCentral.