What’s Up, Doc? Health Sites See Mobile Growth

What's up, Doc Health Sites See Mobile GrowthThe doctor is in. Only now that means 24/7/365 — on mobile.

A recent Millennial Media study on consumer habits indicates that people seeking health information now split their time evenly between the PC and mobile devices.

On the mobile side, about 45 percent of time is spent on smartphones and 5 percent on tablets. That’s a bigger chunk for health than categories like automotive and travel, where the bulk of time is still spent on desktop.

In short, the study shows that the health and wellness category has hardly been immune to the broader transition to mobile devices.

The migration to mobile is underscored by the first quarter 2014 reports of several digital health companies — and we’re not talking “doctored results.”

For instance, Everyday Health, which recently went public, reported that its apps have been downloaded 15 million times, with 62 percent of visits to its franchises coming from mobile devices.

Well known health site WebMD said during its first-quarter earnings call that traffic growth is being driven by increased use of its mobile offerings. The company admitted that the trend accompanies a decline in desktop Web traffic, though many users “continue to rely on the larger screen size of the PC for many of their activities.”

WebMD combines PC and tablet numbers into a single figure for page views because the two formats provide a similar user experience. Company execs say page views were up 7 percent in the quarter, but offset by a 2 percent drop in U.S. PC-based views.

How will health sites massage dissemination of health information into a healthy bottom line? When it comes to monetizing the mobile traffic increase, WebMD CEO David Schlanger said the company continues to see growing advertiser demand for mobile but doesn’t expect an overnight change.

“I would think mobile is really going to be a steady build over the next several quarters and years as opposed to a dramatic inflection point,” Schlanger said.

Schlanger acknowledged that brands and sponsors need to have mobile-optimized sites to monetize the click-through opportunities. And unlike online mobile sellers of shoes or shirts, health sites often need to invest in an internal process so that mobile creative teams can be reviewed by in-house regulatory staff. With pharmaceutical companies, that’s a must: drug ads are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

For Everyday Health, which operates about 25 distinct apps (MedPage Today, South Beach Diet, and others), generating mobile sales will be critical. The company said mobile revenue increased 57 percent in the first quarter, and that mobile now accounts for a quarter of its total revenues.

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