The HealthCentral Network demonstrates how aggressively and strategically commercial interests are leveraging public interest in health. This is a health portal with a twist. It aggregates and links a network of health sites dealing with common concerns. Also elegantly simple is the organization of health sites by mind, body, and general health. The following is only a small portion of their network:
OurAlzheimers.com … MyMigraineConnection.com
AcidRefluxConnection.com MyAllergyNetwork.com MyBreastCancerNetwork.com MyDietExercise.com OsteoporosisConnection.com…
DrKoop.com … HealthSquare.com
Each health sub-portal presents content in a common framework — Find, Manage, Connect — along with brief teasers about common and current questions. Each member site focuses on areas of health or chronic disease with high public profile. The business model is to aggregate the audience around specific interest areas, offer relevant information and surround the information with related advertising obviously targetted at a captive audience.
Take a look around some of the portals to see how much space and position is designated for advertising. Obviously they believe that there will be enough of the right type of eyeballs to generate sustainability and profit. No doubt the shared web infrastructure also reduces maintenance and operation costs.
Government and non-profit organizations offering health and health promotion services online are competing for the same audience. How much more effective they could be with strategic and explicit networking of aligned interests, enabling searching across their sites, establishing common information formats, and sharing infrastructures. Instead of surrounding content with ads, how about offering space to relevant community resources — yes, even those who may be considered competitors? Department stores and gas stations learned long ago that being side by side attracts more business for everyone.