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MedCity Media finds growth niche in biomedical reporting

Chris Seper, president of Cleveland’s MedCity Media. Photos Bob Perkoski
Chris Seper, president of Cleveland’s MedCity Media. Photos Bob Perkoski
According to Chris Seper, president of Cleveland's MedCity Media, he was in the right place at the right time. Formerly The Plain Dealer 's technology reporter, Seper was also the paper's first online medical editor and responsible for creating online sections about consumer health and healthcare.

"During that time, I saw lots of business opportunities on the technology side," he recalls. "I also saw business opportunities for reporting on healthcare and life sciences. Yet fewer journalists were writing with passion about these topics, even as the medical industry was growing in importance."

So, in 2009, Seper, 37, seized the opportunity and launched MedCity Media, an online journal of all-things biomedical.

"With its excellent medical institutions and vibrant healthcare industry, Cleveland was the ideal launch site," he says.

MedCity Media creates innovative content for people interested in healthcare and life sciences. Life sciences, he explains, refers to biotech, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Topics covered include hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, medical device development, healthcare IT, non-profit foundations, medical jobs and healthcare reform.

MedCity Media offers three primary products -- content services, digital products and news syndication -- in three markets – Cleveland, the Twin Cities (Minnesota) and the Research Triangle in North Carolina.

In terms of content services, the company delivers customized healthcare content, ranging from magazine articles and news releases to white papers and websites. Its premier digital product is MedCity News.com, which publishes news, analysis and opinions with a focus on key industrial capitals of healthcare. The company's news syndication service enables publishers to use select MedCity Media content for their print, broadcast and digital venues.

According to Seper, there are 15 "healthcare Silicon Valleys," with innovations in healthcare and bio sciences spread among them. "Cleveland offers world-class care and research. The Twin Cities of Minnesota are outstanding in medical devices, and North Carolina's Research Triangle is a biotech capital," he notes. Seper lists the others as Philadelphia, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Baltimore-Washington D.C., San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Denver, and Los Angeles.
MedCity Media has several elements.

"'MedCitizens' is the term we use for anyone who posts a comment or an article on our site," he says. "Through 'MedCity Twitter Buzz,' we interact with people who we believe add value to the healthcare industry."

There's also "MedCity Thought Leaders." 

"We let people blog on our site for free, and about 50 individuals have up signed up to do it," Seper explains. "We've selected the most informative and interesting individuals and designated them as 'MedCity Thought Leaders'."

MedCity also has a job board.

The newest addition to the mix is "MedCity Life."

"We just introduced it this year, so we're still in beta testing mode," he states. "This section reflects the social side of important medical cities and targets business travelers, the local medical industry and anyone involved in it, including sales people, potential employees and future medical students."

Recent articles featured Akron's "Docs Who Rock," about bands that include  Summit County physicians, and The Good Day Café, one of Minnesota's main medical tech eateries.

MedCity Media has three income streams – online advertising, which includes the posting of healthcare jobs; syndication of content; and custom digital products. Seper  pursued an aggressive growth strategy for MedCity Media right out of the starting gate, "In terms of financial backing, we were fortunate to have several early adopter partners, like the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, who understood the value of what we were going to deliver and signed on as advertisers," he explains.

Funding came from other sources as well. Cleveland's JumpStart Ventures, which invests in early-stage companies, provided financial assistance in December 2010. The Civic Innovation Lab and Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) also came on board to support the new company.

"Private investors liked the concept and provided additional funding," he notes. "It's been great because now, more than ever, you can grow faster with adequate funding."

According to Seper, MedCity News has more than 100,000 visitors a month, domestically and globally.

The company has nine employees, up from two in 2009. Plans call for filling two more positions by the end of the year and adding another six people in 2012. "I'm excited and proud of what we've achieved," he says. "We're fortunate to have worked with the individuals we have. Cleveland is a great town for not only healthcare but for media, both traditional media and new media, like 'Cool Cleveland.'"

MedCity Media just launched in Philadelphia in September. Seper isn't satisfied, however.

"In terms of growth, I'm a cup with an empty bottom," he states. "The healthcare industry is very 'siloed' now but is becoming more integrated. I want us to help connect things and be insiders with the information people want. We're writing for the next generation of leadership in healthcare and life sciences, and we want to be among the first to tell them what's happening next."

In addition to rolling out to more of the cities he considers important medical meccas, Seper wants to rev up custom events -- one aspect of their content offerings. "One of our goals in 2012 is to be more aggressive in presenting webinars, seminars and workshops," he reports.

Leaders at three Ohio healthcare and life sciences organizations -- BioStart, BioEnterprise, and BioOhio -- view MedCity Media's offerings as an important resource. "MedCity News is a great source for healthcare and biomedical news from Cleveland and other leading healthcare regions, says Annette Ballou, director of strategic marketing and communications at BioEnterprise in Cleveland.

Carol Frankenstein, president of Cincinnati's BioStart, indicates that she reads MedCity News to help her keep tabs on the healthcare market nationally. "They often provide an alternate point of view compared to local or national business news," she states.

Matt Schutte, director of corporate communications at BioOhio in Columbus, notes that "Ohio's biomedical industry has been in growth mode for the past ten years, and a media outlet like MedCity News is a nice fit for the business and research activity spearheading this growth."

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