Everyday Health and the selling of trust

Whenever some ink-stained wretch goes on the TV to tell me how journalism is dead, I laugh.Journalism -- the organizing and advocating of a place, industry or lifestyle -- is healthier than ever.

Whenever some ink-stained wretch goes on the TV to tell me how journalism is dead, I laugh.

Journalism -- the organizing and advocating of a place, industry or lifestyle -- is healthier than ever. This is no more true than on the health beat, where in a few short years we've gone from start-ups to roll-ups, the equivalent of giant health care magazine chains.

How these folks figure on getting paid differs, and I get no end of entertainment in following their business models. Healthline focuses on Personal Health Records. HealthCentral likes e-mail. WebMD sees itself as a big national brand.

Waterfront Media sells trust. Whoever you trust, however you see your trust relationships, if it has to do with health they have it. It's a Conde Nast of health.

Do you trust fitness guru Denise Austin? The bearded Dr. Andrew Weil? Are you on the Sonoma Diet, the South Beach Diet, or follow Shaquille O'Neal's Big Family Challenge? Want to save money at Drugstore.com?

They are all part of Wavefront's EverydayHealth Network, which bought Steve Case's Revolution Health late last year. With that deal, they went ahead of WebMD in unique visitors.

The game, as always, is to monetize the eyeballs. Wavefront staffs itself with Internet marketing experts and sells the credibility of its sites on Madison Avenue.

It is a bit like owning a string of magazines. Celebrities like Montel Williams, Jillian Michaels and Ellie Krueger provide the editorial oomph and the "reader" knowledge. Wavefront handles the back-office and the ad sales. It's a business model as old as Joseph Pulitzer and Nellie Bly.

Perhaps seeing that headline you thought I was about to rip Waterfront CEO Ben Wolin a new one. Just the opposite. Without publishers writers would have to fend for themselves. We'd be like weiner dogs in cardigans.

This is what journalists fear when they agitate for users to be forced into paying for what's online. We don't know business models, and don't want to know. That is above our pay grade.

Most journalists don't want to be publishers. That would mean working on the business instead of in the business, where we find our satisfaction. We just want to be taken care of.

And it's folks like Ben Wolin who will take care of us, having solved this Internet business model puzzle. Now we do our work, we create the trust,  he monetizes it, and the money flows.