Health Sites, Demographics, and Bunions

Healthcare is a huge and rapidly growing application for the Internet. A recent Jupiter Communications study claims that online health advertising will hit $700 million in 2004, with health e-commerce reaching $10 billion that year. It’s good, then, that online health surfing is segmentable. Very segmentable.

Surfers Like Health Sites

Last October, The Strategis Group published its biannual Internet User Trends study, in which nearly 500 web users were asked whether or not they had visited a health site within the last three months. Some 38 percent of users had visited a health site, a figure that matched the 38 percent who had visited a chat room, and far outpaced the percentages who listened to Internet radio, did online banking, and paid bills via the web.

Older Women Surf

A remarkable 62 percent of women 35 and older visit health sites, compared to only 19 percent of men under 35. How’s that for segmentation? Comparing men and women overall, 53 percent of women are visiting the HealthAxis and Planet Rx’s of the world, compared to only 25 percent of the not-so-fair sex. Healthcare visits rise with age, such that 49 percent of those 55 and older have visited a health site recently, compared to only 25 percent of the 18-24 crowd.

Healthcare on the Internet is an anomaly in two respects. First, men and women participate similarly in most online activities, but health is an obvious exception. Second, very few Internet activities rise with age, but again, health surfing is different.

Age and Gender Determine Visits to Health Sites

Percentage of Web Users Who Have Visited a Health Site Within the Last Three Months
18-34 men
18-34 women
35+ men
35+ women

Source: The Strategis Group, Inc.

Getting Meds Online

Now to give you whiplash. Corporate Research Group released a study about the online pharmaceutical industry in December revealing that young people were significantly more open to the idea of getting their prescriptions online, and that 20 percent of drug store customers would be willing to give Internet pharmacies a chance.

How to explain this discrepancy? There’s a big difference between getting information online and buying drugs online. Besides, Internet penetration is a paltry 16 percent among seniors (65+), compared to 60 percent among those 18-24. Grandma may not get her meds online, but if she’s wired – um, in the technical sense of the word – chances are she’s researching bunion cures on HealthCentral.

Any Other Segmentable Traits?

What other demographic data influence health surfing? Based on the Strategis research, income level has no impact on visits to health sites. Education has very little impact, with more educated users slightly more inclined to research health on the Internet. And don’t neglect those B2B sites. The research shows that work users are as likely to visit health sites as home users.

Online Health Advertising

Jupiter estimates that about $100 million was spent for healthcare advertising on the Internet in 1999, and that this sum will rise to $700 million in 2004.

This tracks with The Strategis Group’s “Advertising on the Internet: 1999” study, which found that healthcare advertising made up about 4 percent of the overall Internet pie – a significant advertising topic, but not one of the leading ones. Strategis found that the most visible online health advertisers were OnHealth, PlanetRx, VitaminShoppe,, HealthAxis, and Healthshop, in that order.

What’s a Health Site to Do?

If you have a health site or a site with health content, focus on the demographics that work for you – age and gender. Steer away from income and education. Don’t neglect workplace users.

Focus on advertising for a major part of your cash flow. Healthcare is attracting a lot of eyeballs, but fewer buyers. Online prescription drug sales have not taken off and are problematic for a variety of structural and technical reasons.

And, of course, make sure you have plenty of good data on bunions.

Related reading

site search hp
ga hp