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

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1 Comment

  1. Trisha Torrey February 1, 2009


    I absolutely do understand the business model. In fact, I had a pretty good idea of what their business model was before I signed on. I spent 20+ years in business (marketing, later internet marketing) before I became a patient advocate, and have a good understanding of the many ways a company can turn a profit. When I could see no advertising on the site, it was clear they had other intentions. Creating an asset to be sold was about the only option.

    So what else is new? Ethics aside (need I remind you what is going on in banks in this country?) — a business model is exactly what it is — an intent to make money. For so many bloggers to sign on, then get upset when the site was sold, strikes me as a little naive.

    My point, then, is simply this: I haven’t made money from my blog, and I didn’t expect to make money from it. The payoff — my “profit” — is exposure. And I expect to / hope to / will be surprised if I don’t get even more exposure through Health Central.

    I absolutely understand that many of my fellow healthcare bloggers feel blindsided, and I can absolutely understand why they would feel that way. But it doesn’t change the reality of the original situation. Wellsphere was being built to be profitable in some way, and that is exactly what happened, no matter how upsetting or unethical it may seem to those who don’t understand internet business models.

    I do thank you for posting, Christopher.


    PS — your photography is absolutely breathtaking. Having lived in your neck-o-the-woods for many years (OK – on the Tennessee side of your mountain) it makes me long for my Appalachian days. Thanks for sharing. I’ll return to enjoy frequently.