WHO IS IN THIS COMMUNITY?
Sadly, I don’t have a lot of readers right now, but I know that the community that I hope to target with my blog is made up of people who either take prescription drugs, or who are being impacted by prescription drugs in some way. From what I have discovered through my own personal research, a lot of people are taking prescription medicine, and subsequently, a lot of people have questions and concerns about prescription drugs that they want to discuss with others. For example, on the Drugs.com message board, the vast majority of topic strings have to do with the side effects of widely used anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and painkillers.
As far as demographics go, I believe my potential readers really range the gamut because people of all ages and walks of life take prescription drugs.
According to Google Analytics, one of my most viewed posts was on new drug applications. To me, this is a clear indication that people are interested in what prescription drugs are currently being considered by the FDA and what future treatments may be in store for certain diseases and conditions. Another popular post of mine was one that I wrote on Vioxx lawsuits. I get the sense that this is a topic that incites extremely passionate responses from people for obvious reasons… people suffered serious health problems brought on by the use of Vioxx and therefore feel violently betrayed by their health care professionals and the FDA. Given this country’s stringent FDA standards for drug approvals, people in America have an absolute expectation that medicines prescribed by their doctors will be one hundred percent safe. And when it doesn’t pan out that way, they want some sort of vindication or payback.
There are also countless social networking groups related the pharmaceutical industry, and the focus of these groups comes down on all sides of the fence — those who hate the industry, those who work for the industry and those who want to improve it. The Facebook group Pharmaceutical fraud as usual and to HELL with the risks of your medication has 147 members and is composed of people who feel that patients are being duped and abused by big-name pharmaceutical companies that are not being honest about the dangerous side effects of the drugs they manufacture. There are also many groups committed to educating people about the ever-growing problem of prescription drug abuse. The Facebook group Stop Prescription Drug Abuse has 116 members who post regularly about their struggles with personal prescription drug abuse, and with abuse by friends and family members. Not surprisingly, there are also an infinite number of social networking self-help groups designed to help prescription drug addicts cope. The MySpace group Awareness of Prescription Drugs has 1,425 members and has a self-proclaimed mission of providing “a space for those to help us learn, support and share our experiences with prescription drugs, in the hopes of informing those who are unaware of a silent killer leaching through America.”
Google has a few prescription drug groups but from what I’ve seen, they do not have nearly the membership as that of similar groups found on Facebook and MySpace.
My site was linked to a blog called SeniorsSpace.com, thanks to my May 31 Over-medicating Seniors post. This supports my belief that my blog also appeals to an older generation. This of course makes sense because, generally, older people take more prescription drugs. According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, prescription drug use is rising among people of all ages, and use increases with age. Five out of six persons age 65 and older are taking at least one prescription medication, and almost half of the elderly take three or more prescription drugs.
And not so coincidentally, the day of my Over-medicating Seniors post (June 2) was the day of my highest traffic on the site, according to Google Analytics.
Another sector of the population that I think is very interested in reading about prescription drug news is anti-depressant users. Recent dult use of antidepressants almost tripled between 1988-1994 and 1999-2000, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.
Ten percent of women 18 and older and four percent of men 18 and older are currently taking anti-depressant medication. Since these medications have a whole host of side effects (which are the topic of many a discussion board thread), I think this is a huge target audience for Better Living Through Chemistry. In addition, more and more of these anti-depressant medications are coming out all the time, so there is plenty of fodder for post topics and conversation.
WHAT ARE THEIR CONTENT INTERESTS, AND WHERE DO THEY GET INFORMATION ON THESE TOPICS?
I think the people that visit Better Living Through Chemistry are older, educated people who get their news from a wide range of sources — websites, television, newspapers and magazines. However, I think they primarily get their information online. There are SO many sites dedicated to prescription drugs — informational sites like Drugs.com and RxList.com, and of course, the plethora of news health sites and online pharmacy sites. As Professor Michael Santoro pointed out in my audio interview, doctors today have to contend with patients who are extraordinarily well-informed about prescription medications “both because of direct consumer marketing and because of all the information that’s available on the web.” These days, anyone can go online, Google a medication and find out every nitty-gritty detail about that drug imaginable. Some of the most popular sites are those that allow you to plug in drugs to find out potential negative interactions. At Drugstore.com’s Drug Checker, you can “build your drug list” to check for drugs that shouldn’t be taken together.
However, one potential audience group that may not be so online savvy is seniors. While there are certainly a surprising number of elderly people who can navigate the web and enjoy doing so, there are still many who probably prefer to get their information via more traditional means. Attracting this audience would certainly prove to be much more of a challenge.
However, I think word of mouth also plays a huge factor in how people get their prescription drug information. So many people are taking prescription drugs that it is simply inevitable that these various drugs get discussed and compared among friends. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, I overheard numerous tidbits of conversation about prescription drugs at a bridal shower. People are anxious to chat about side effects, which drugs work best, which ones have gotten bad reviews and what people are taking in general. I think telling more friends, family, co-workers, classmates, etc. about my blog would help to get the word out.
HOW AND UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES DO THEY COMMUNICATE WITH ONE ANOTHER, ONLINE AND OFF?
The plethora of drug information so easily accessible on the Web leads to better informed people seeking even more information. Once you find out about the drugs you have been prescribed, one of the next logical steps is to head to blogs and message boards to find out the experiences of other people taking the same drugs. Often, the order changes slightly. People feel that they have a certain condition, so they go to blogs and message boards to “self-diagnose” and then try and determine what drugs they think they should be taking. Then, they either go to their doctor and ask for that drug, or they try and order it from an overseas pharmacy. I definitely feel that online, anonymous communication is highly preferred among prescription drug users. Despite the all-pervasive nature of prescription drug use in America, there is still a bit of a stigma attached to the people who need to take them — particularly when they are taking them for mental conditions like depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder. Subsequently, online discussion boards and social networking groups on Facebook, MySpace, etc., are the ideal forum for prescription drug users to interact. They allow people to discuss their personal situations and diagnosis without revealing too much about their personal identity and location.
There are also numerous annual pharmaceutical industry conferences that take place around the globe, but I think these are primarily meeting places for health care professionals and not necessarily the people taking prescription drugs. However, many of these sites offer online discussion forums, which do attract both health care professionals and patients alike. Pharmacists themselves are a strong collective. The Facebook group Future Pharmers of America has 523 members who socialize and post pharmacy industry related links. I have found that discussion forums and social networking sites are the primary ways in which my target audience communicates with one another.
People feel very strongly about prescription drug issues. The Facebook group The FDA is pure EVIL has 133 members who all believe that the FDA is harming Americans by approving dangerous prescription drugs. However, there are also countless discussion groups, like Drug Talk, that cater to people that are not opposed to prescription drugs, but simply want information. Forums like this allow people to discuss which ones work best, and what side effects people have experienced with certain drugs. Prescription drug support forums are also an extremely popular way for my target audience to communicate with one another. Sites like Oprah Winfrey’s Prescription Drug Addiction Support Board are highly trafficked spots. They allow users to commiserate with one another and share personal experiences.