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Trust: The foundation of a healthy audience relationship

May 2, 2016 | By Kristy Hammam, SVP—WebMD

I often get asked, who is WebMD’s audience? There are of course many ways to add dimension to the response, but the simplest answer is that the people who come to WebMD are using our content to help them make better informed decisions about their health or the health of a loved one. And at the end of the day, what could be more important? Our audience isn’t just viewing our content; they’re taking an active role in managing their health based on the information they get from us. They trust us with their health, and that trust is something we take with the utmost gravity and respect.

It has never been easier for individuals or companies to establish an online presence, position themselves as experts, and publish information without regard for accuracy and objectivity. Combine that fact with the number of new and interesting monetization opportunities, including native advertising, and it means that as a consumer it can take some real savvy to identify the source of what you’re reading.

As publishers, this gives us all the more reason to be transparent about our sources and to help our audiences clearly understand when they are reading independent editorial content and when they are reading sponsored content. We owe that to people who trust us. Trust is something that’s earned, and at WebMD we work to earn it every single day.

The following three principles ensure the integrity and accuracy of what we produce:

  1. Editorial Independence: WebMD maintains an editorial staff that is separate and distinct from our staff that works with advertisers. Our editorial controls and policies prohibit modifying a story on behalf of, or for the benefit of, an advertiser.
  1. Editorial Excellence: Our content features some of the top minds in medicine and wellness to ensure the highest-quality original offerings. Behind the scenes, we also have more than 120 award-winning writers, editors, and producers whose contributions help to provide a broad range of relevant and engaging content. Our in-house staff of board-certified physician editors review all of our content for medical accuracy, appropriateness of medical language, and proper characterization of the findings. This review is at the heart of our approach and is one of the reasons that we have earned a reputation for accuracy. Additionally, we regularly review the tens of thousands of pages of our content that we publish so that we can make any updates or changes where appropriate. We also source our content carefully and deliberately, and the list of specific references we use are available through a link on each story.
  1. Full Transparency: Like other media outlets and publishers, in addition to the content that we create in accordance with our Editorial Policy, in certain circumstances, WebMD also publishes content that is authored by our advertisers. In all cases, however, advertiser content is clearly labeled as provided by the advertiser to make the sourcing clear to our users, and our process for labeling that content is spelled out publicly.  We believe that identifying the source of such sponsored web pages is critically important. Our voluntary participation in independent accreditation and certification programs such as URAC reinforces our commitment to transparency and trust.

WebMDsponoredlogoThis tried-and-true approach has earned us consumer trust since 1996, and the 76 million unique visitors who come to us each month affirm the success of our model. We believe that publishers who create great content, adhere to these principles and enable audiences to differentiate easily between independent editorial and advertising content are the ones who will not only survive but thrive.

Kristy Hammam leads the team responsible for serving WebMD’s users by selecting the best content to appear on WebMD’s Home Page, Health & Wellness Centers, newsletters, and partner sites.

Hammam began her career as a writer and copy editor at CNN Headline News, where she worked for nearly six years. She went on to produce and voice a weekly health feature in addition to national and international features for all of the CNN networks. She also gained experience field-producing live events for CNN and line-producing in a studio control room. Before moving into her current role, Hammam served as WebMD’s deputy managing editor and as executive producer of programming.

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