A Different Perspective on the Sale of Wellsphere

(To my patient-readers: feel free to pass this one up. It’s aimed at my fellow healthcare bloggers who have been participating in a program begun by Wellsphere. Wellsphere made a business move that is quite unpopular and has made many members of the health blogosphere very cranky….)

I’ve pondered this for two days now. I try not to be quick to pull the trigger, and I generally give cummupances some thought… but now it seems like it’s time to share those thoughts with my fellow professionals and healthcare bloggers. I can’t be the only one who thinks this way….

Some of you are over-the-top upset at the sale of Wellsphere to Health Central because you feel as if someone has now made money off your work.

You’re right. They have.

Some of you are “I told you so-ing,” practically with glee, as if you’ve had some great revelation that yes! They DID want to make money! As if you knew there was something sinister when you were contacted by Geoff Rutledge and asked to participate.

You’re right. They did want to make money.

But I ask you — is making money a bad thing? It’s a trick question, so don’t answer just yet.

I bring to you a different perspective. I don’t ask you to agree with me. I just ask you to consider a different point of view for a moment.

I’ll begin by asking you a question: why do you blog? Why do you write or broadcast or podcast or videocast online?

Most of you will answer at least a portion of the same answer I would give. I blog because it allows me to offer information to others, and share my perspective. I blog to help patients understand the dysfunction of American healthcare and improve their ability to access the excellent care that does exist (when they can find it.) I blog because it helps me drive people to my other work online — at my personal website (that houses my newspaper columns), my radio show website (that houses podcasts of the show I host), and my About.com website (that houses a little bit of everything.)

I don’t blog to make money. My personal blog does earn me (and I’m not kidding) about $1.52 each month from syndication. But I never did begin blogging to make money from my blog. I blog for exposure.

So when Wellsphere came along, I saw it as an opportunity to maximize exposure. And it has done that for me, according to my stats. In fact, my blog numbers (about 4,000 people per month) doubled when my blog began to appear on Wellsphere.

Wellsphere is a business.  I knew they would make money. Wellsphere never made me any promises of payment. I never expected to get any payment. They haven’t stolen my content or anyone else’s. They have borrowed it. They have  (and this is important) a NON-EXCLUSIVE right to it. That means I can do whatever I want to with mine, too. And you can do whatever you want to with your writing, too. Even sever your relationship with Wellsphere if that’s what you choose.

Yes – they are in business to make money. That was why they built the site. You must have known that when you signed on. Why on earth would they build it if they didn’t intend to make money from it?  It certainly wasn’t out of the goodness of their hearts!

And most of you, my fellow bloggers, have an income stream, too. However, I’ll bet none of you makes a living from healthcare blogging! We all make our living in other ways, and blogging is one of those tools responsible for helping us make that living (or, maybe, helping us to cope with it?). Knowing that, then increased exposure can only be a good thing.

Yes, yes… I’ve heard that the owner can be a real SOB.  I have heard that people changed jobs, got fired, weren’t happy with their tenure working there.  I am sorry for them.  But this is not that, and we are not them.

At the end of the day, Wellsphere hasn’t done anything devious. They are making money. There was no hidden agenda except, perhaps, that they passed us off to Health Central. That was unexpected, but other than that, the relationship hasn’t changed at all. They are publishing our blogs, aren’t giving us any cash, but we continue to gain exposure for our work.

In fact, the only real difference is that now we will get even more exposure.

Would I like it if they sent me a check? You bet! Would I like to share in that big payoff? Of course!

But…. I don’t fault Wellsphere for making what was purely a business decision. I actually applaud their ability to do something positive in this horrible economic climate.

Above all else, I’m happy to know that even MORE patients, those who need help, and those who can contribute to this blog full of ideas, will find the opportunity through Health Central.

As I said when I began — I don’t ask you to agree with me. I ask only that you understand a different point of view. Hopefully the mutual respect remains. We can always agree to disagree.


Posted in: Patient Empowerment

Leave a Comment (11) ↓


  1. Doc January 30, 2009

    I do think Dr. Val is right. The form letters and the good vibes sensation the site gives off has lost a lot of its luster. They do flatter relentlessly. The personal touch is all veneer, as she states. When I got the offer from them it looked and felt like some snake oil feelgood pyramid scheme. It was like health blogger Amway. It just so happens that I signed on anyway because in spite of this, I didn’t really see how it would end up harming me, and the fact that I am a little neurotic and even suspicious praise was better than no praise for my fledgling blog start up.

    Now I feel bad precisely because I see now that my MD gives these people credibility, in all their insincere glory. At the same time, at least I’m putting valid content out there, even if I can’t speak for the rest of the site, find the quality wildly varying and uneven, think the design is tacky, and find it extremely difficult to navigate. Maybe I just need to get over myself. I don’t know. Maybe Health Central will right the ship. Who’s to say.

  2. Moof January 30, 2009

    I’m sorry, but the money isn’t the only issue … and I’m dumbfounded that no one seems to be giving much attention to the other problems surrounding Wellsphere’s policies …

    They contacted me, as they did all of the others, telling me that I would have a chance to answer other people’s questions, and have my own answered. I thought it would be something like WebMD, and I was delighted to join.

    In short order, I discovered that we, all of us in the general public, whether we had any medical knowledge at all, were *encouraged* to answer as many questions as possible. I just cut and pasted this from my account:

    “Your Health Maven Status
    You’ve answered 7 questions!
    You’re 43 answers away from Top Health Maven Status”

    They presented me, a simple patient blogger with no medical training or education, as an:

    Health Maven for the General Medicine Community
    Top HealthBlogger”

    They had no idea what I was saying in the questions I replied to, because there was no medical professional oversight, except by random chance. A large portion of the questions never were answered, or were answered by people who were themselves stumbling around in unfamiliar territory … experts indeed!

    Imagine the harm that could be done … or that probably HAS been done!

    I believe that Wellsphere dragged as many people into their trap as they could, abandoned them once they were there (that’s another story I could tell you), left them open to what could well be devastating medical advice from people who aren’t qualified to “practice online medicine” – or any other kind of medicine … and then, once they had a large enough bunch of gullible boobs, they sold them off, lock, stock, and barrel.

    This isn’t just dishonest, this is criminal.

    There’s a much larger, more sinister, picture than Blog Scraping. They are completely conscienceless.

  3. Trisha Torrey January 30, 2009

    Moof, Doc and Dr. Val,

    You have all made excellent points, and yes, I agree with them all. Do I feel “taken”? yes, I do. Do I think the 1000+ of us who were, in effect, flattered into participation were sold a bill of goods? Yes, I do.

    Moof — your point may be the best one yet — that the very people who need the advice the most may not be getting it. THAT upsets me.

    But with all the dispersions we are casting on Wellsphere, it seems to me that maybe that makes the acquisition by Health Central a benefit. Because it means that the situation we used to be in with a mercenary, dispassionate (and potentially harmful) netizen corporation, has now been transformed (through no efforts or even realization of necessity of our own) to a relationship with a dignified and respected corporation. And to Moof’s point — hopefully they will vet and rearrange the “experts” into something that is truly helpful to the site’s participants.

    Thanks to you all for posting. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out over the next several months.


  4. sick 'n tired of abuse January 30, 2009

    Would the perpetrators of this scheme do well under a full personal background and criminal check? I wonder.

    There also seems to be quite a few people who were misled. That is not some odd coincidence.

    Why not take up contributions to pay a law firm to sue?

    Why not take out an ad in major HC journals or the New York Times alerting the medical and lay public to this scheme?

    Why not conduct a full background and criminal check on the perps? Could they withstand such scrutiny?

  5. Christopher C NC February 1, 2009

    I’m just a garden blogger who was contacted by Wellsphere with the form letter flattery about three weeks ago. I smelled a rat and did not join.


    It was obvious to me that their intended business plan was to build the site’s content and traffic and then sell it for a profit. Writing legal mumbo jumbo for TOS, that bloggers may or may not read and understand, that makes theft legal, doesn’t make theft ethical.

    This is a real reflection of the ethics that permeate the business world today. Profits at any cost and they don’t care who they screw in the process.


    Trisha you can try and find some way to make Wellsphere’s business model acceptable, but to do that you have to ignore the intentional content grab and equal copyright privilege they granted themselves. Ask yourself, who is in a better position to profit off of all this free content?