HealthCentral Boosts Engagement With In-Depth Patient Stories

Showing successes in overcoming disease

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Jodi Edwards admitted she was terrified. But it compelled her to stay active, and eventually she relearned not only how to walk but also became a marathon runner.

Edwards' story is the latest addition to Live Bold Live Now, a HealthCentral series that takes a deep look at debilitating health conditions and tries to spread a message of hope instead of fear. 

"What we're trying to do is chronicle really amazing people using multimedia, video, highly engaging storytelling and editorial," Jim Curtis, chief revenue officer, told Adweek. "Hopefully we can inspire people with their condition or a condition that is in the same ballpark to live better now."

The Remedy Health Media owned company claims the plan is working. Users who visited the in-depth account on boxer Laura Deanovic's battle with psoriasis read three times more page visits than the average HealthCentral Skin Care visitor. They spent 6:25 minutes perusing that particular story, and had a 4 percent ad CTR. According to DoubleClick, the average industry CTR is just 0.21 percent.

Users who looked at Lene Andersen's rheumatoid arthritis struggles had a 2 percent ad CTR. However, they looked at double the number of pages per visit than the average HealthCentral Rheumatoid Arthritis visitor, a total of 15.85 pages. They also spent 7:47 minutes on the story.

Curtis explained that HealthCentral is attempting to positively influence online health-seekers by sharing stories of triumph over disease, which the company believes leads to brand loyalty. The health company wanted to shy away from the phenomenon of online diagnosis, which is leading many people to dangerously misdiagnose and incorrectly self-treat illnesses that they don't have. Curtis explained the health care portal doesn't want to be Everyday Health, which focuses on "celebrity" voices from the health world, or WebMD, which lists physical descriptions for a whole host of diseases.

HealthCentral also wanted to ensure consumers that pharmaceutical companies didn't play a role in the promotion of a certain kind of medication or treatment, Curtis said. Pharmaceutical companies do not have any influence over the content of the multimedia stories, but they do participate with sponsorship and are promoted through display ads between the chapters of each story.

"What we really went after is the real patient," he explained. "Someone who has what you have and has surpassed it and conquered it in some way."