Friday, March 13, 2009

Social networking docs write more scripts: eMarketing - Medical Marketing and Media

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MediaPost Publications Twitter Driving Traffic To Social, Entertainment Sites 03/13/2009

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Online coupon volume and redemption booms in 2008

Online coupon volume and redemption booms in 2008

The amount of online coupons boomed in 2008, with redemption rates far exceeding those of print coupons, according to an eMarketer report. Coupon processing company Inmar said 13% of online coupons were redeemed last year, whereas just 1% of print coupons were redeemed. Since 2007's previous high, online coupons have experienced a 140% growth rate. Currently, online coupons represent just 1% of the 2.6 billion coupons offered in the United States each year. Most consumers clip their coupons from newspapers, receipts, and other paper sources, with less than 30% finding coupons online, according to comScore data.

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Pharma connects with patients, doctors via social networking sites

Pharma connects with patients, doctors via social networking sites

Pharma companies have started using social networking sites to recruit clinical trial patients, according to a Newsweek article. Sites that are specifically geared toward people with serious or chronic diseases give pharma access to engaged patients with defined medical conditions. Recruiting patients via social networking sites may help clinical trials attract the amount of people they need-about 80% of the 50,000 clinical trials under way in the United States are delayed at least one month due to low enrollment. Pharma is reaching out to doctors through social networking sites as well. Some companies are buying access to physician-specific sites such as Sermo and WebMD's Medscape Physician Connect and are given access to physicians' online discussions.

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Growing numbers of African-Americans use the Internet regularly

Growing numbers of African-Americans use the Internet regularly

The racial digital divide is shortening, with an increasing number of African-Americans going online regularly, according to an eMarketer report. The analytics company estimates that more than 19 million African-Americans, or nearly half of the African-American population, uses the Internet at least once per month. It projects that 56% will be online in four years. This is good news for companies, since the African-American population has strong spending power, estimated at $913 billion in 2008 by the Selig Center for Economic Growth. However, African-Americans made fewer online purchases than other minority groups in 2007, according to The Media Audit. Just 20% had purchased five or more items online that year, and less than 11% bought 12 or more items online.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

European Pharma Moves on Social and Digital Media

European Pharma Moves on Social and Digital Media


In nearly any conversation about digital and social media on a global scale, one is bound to hear the refrain that European pharmaceutical companies have even more inhibitions than their American counterparts because of the existence of DTC in the US and because they are restricted in their communications with patients in Europe.

Defying gravity, if not convention, Roche, headquartered in Basel Switzerland, today issued an elegant multimedia release on its latest study results involving Herceptin.   First note the slide comparisons of cells near the headline, which are completely enlargeable. But then off to the right, there is not only a video that explains the significance of the findings, but a menu list of other videos one can watch.  There is also, in the upper left hand corner, a menu of offerings to get further communications from Roche, including podcast access and subscription to their RSS feed.  Believe it or not, some large companies still are not using RSS feeds.  A link is also provided if the reader wants to obtain video clips and there are links to document the company's work in oncology.  

This type of release is significant because it offers so much.  It is not just news about the product, it is a virtual Roche oncology library, allowing a reader to only read about the study, or to find further useful background information should it be desirable, without making the reader go hunt for it.  In other words, it accomplishes a one-stop shop for nearly any kind of reader.  

Nice work Basel.

Forgive the lack of cropping on the screen shot - Microsoft's changes to Powerpoint 2007 are completely indecipherable in a most unyielding sense.   
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Online Alcohol Intervention and Prevention Programs

Online Alcohol Intervention and Prevention Programs

by Katie Howard

Learning Objectives

This Public Health Informatics Wiki will help readers:
  1. Provide a general overview of alcohol intervention web-based programs.
  2. Identify the types of alcohol prevention and intervention programs that can be best conducted online.
  3. Identify key components of online alcohol programs.
  4. List at least three positives and three negative aspects of alcohol intervention web-based programs.

Web-based Alcohol Abuse Prevention Programs

Web-based interventions for primary and secondary prevention of alcohol abuse have become increasingly popular. These websites tend to target either high-risk groups or those who abuse alcohol. Interventions are not usually designed to address issues surrounding alcoholism or alcohol addiction since this diagnosis tends to have different and more severe consequences surrounding physical and psychosocial health (Moyer, Finney, Swearingen, & Vergun, 2001). Web-based interventions can help to identify behavioral patterns that lead to or cause alcohol abuse. These interventions are usually for people who are entering college as undergraduates or for people who have been identified as alcohol abusers.

Alcohol Abuse and College Students

College students have been identified as an at-risk group for binge drinking and alcohol abuse. Hingson, Heeren, Winter, and Wechsler (2005) randomly sampled thousands of college students to determine typical drinking behavior. The study used the typical definition of binge drinking which is five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in a single drinking session. They found that 23 percent of students had binge drank three or more times in the past two weeks. In addition, after conducting an ethnographic survey of past studies, the researchers revealed that college students may be at greater risk than other people in the same age group due to the following reasons:
  • 43.2 percent of college students binge drank at least once in the following year while 39.8 percent of same-age noncollege participants.
  • 31.4 percent of college students drove under the influence of alcohol in the last year while only 23.7 percent of those same-age noncollege participants did so.
Since undergraduate college students tend to exhibit higher rates of drinking, alcohol abuse, and related high-risk behavior, university and public health officials have designed and implemented interventions to prevent as well as stop alcohol abuse among college students.

Usefulness of Brief Interventions

Brief interventions have been shown to be successful among the general population. In a meta-analysis of brief interventions, which includes face-to-face contact with a health care provider or educator for people suffering from alcohol abuse, a significant positive impact was found to be present on subjects’ drinking patterns (Moyer, Finney, Swearingen, &Vergun, 2001). However, brief interventions were not more effective than controlled interventions where individuals with severe alcohol abuse problems were included and a single session of advice was not found to be useful for patients with severe drinking problems (ibid). This information is encouraging in terms of the possible success of online interventions to prevent and intervene when low to moderate alcohol abuse is present. Online interventions are brief in nature and are designed to inform the participant of the possible problem. The program can also help them identify ways to drink moderately or abstain from alcohol consumption.

The Nature of Online Alcohol Abuse Interventions

Several online interventions exist that are specifically geared towards college students. These include websites such as and College Alc, whose effectiveness has been reviewed in peer-review journals. These programs must be bought by participating universities, and students are then given access to the websites. One advantage of this is that they are tailored specifically for college students, but they are not available to the general public.

Chiauzzi, et al. (2005) analyzed the effectiveness of Alcohol that provides primary intervention about risks associated with drinking and a self-evaluation based on the BASICS model. The self-evaluation helps to tailor the website to content so that it is appropriate for each individual. Chiauzzi, et al. (2005) found that students who came in at the pre-contemplation stage reduced their consumption of alcohol at a significantly larger proportion than low-motivation to change drinkers. This program can be used to raise awareness among college students who never considered the serious consequences of alcohol consumption or thought about how their personal consumption may be affecting their academics, health, and social interactions. At follow-up, was shown to reduce rates of drinking are a greater rate that the control group which students visited websites that contained information about the risks of drinking once a week for four weeks (ibid).

College Alc or is another website that has been tested in a semi-experimental setting. This program allows colleges to customize the website for their students. The prevention strategy focuses on identifying alcohol abuse and its consequences as well as environmental factors, like the college’s policies, and law enforcement, and social situations, that may contribute to excessive alcohol consumption. College Alc reduced participants’ self-reported rates of heavy drinking, experiences of drunkenness, and negative alcohol-related consequences in the last 30 days, but the affect was relatively small (Bersamin, Paschall, Fearnow-Kenney, & Wyrick, 2007). No effect was found on students who did not consume alcohol before entering the program (ibid).

Some websites not geared specifically towards students include a very similar pattern to these programs: a self-assessments and followed bypersonalized feedback about drinking patters. A good example of this type of website is: This website is put together by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. After completing a self-assessment, each user is given information on how drinking impacts such as the amount money spent buying alcohol, time spent intoxicated and calories consumed over the last year. Also, the website includes a personalized estimate of the likelihood of injury and other negative consequences based on the individual’s drinking habits. Cunningham, Humphreys, Koski-Jannes and Cordingley (2005) conducted a small study on the effectiveness of this website to reduce high risk drinking. They found that alone the website did reduce high risk drinking, but in conjunction with written materials, the intervention was more successful. When colleges use online alcohol prevention and intervention programs, handing out additional materials may increase the effectiveness of the program and some programs, such as College Alc, do offer textbooks and other materials to supplement their website.

Summary of Key Components and Benefits

The Center for Addiction and Mental Health’s assessment, College Alc and all contain key components which should be present in an alcohol abuse prevention and intervention program. These key components are:
  • Assessment of individual’s current drinking patterns
  • Summary or specialized feedback based on assessment
  • Identification of risks associated with drinking and possible environmental influences
These can be important tools in helping students find motivation to cut back on drinking. Some advantages of online programs are that they can reach a large number of students, provide individual feedback, and have been shown to reduce drinking rates. Students also may be more likely to be honest about their drinking patterns in an anonymous, private setting than in a classroom or health care setting. These programs however are not appropriate for those who meet the clinical definition of an alcoholic and these are often the people who suffer the most serious consequences of alcohol consumption. Also, the startup cost of the individualized programs for college students can be expensive and these programs may not address the individual’s complex psychosocial reasons for abusing alcohol. Overall, these interventions seem to be important tools in helping to prevent and curb binge drinking on college campuses.

Additional Websites:
Academic Resources:
Bearsamin M., Paschall, M. J., Fearnow-Kenney, M., & Wyrick, D. (2007). Effectiveness of a web-based
alcohol-misuse and harm-prevention course among high- and low-risk students. Journal of American College Health. 55(4): 247-254.
Chiauzzi, E., Green, T. C., Lord, S., Thum, C., & Goldstein, M. (2005). My student body: A high-risk drinking prevention web site for college students. Journal of American College Health. 53(6): 263-274.
Cunningham, J. A., Humphreys, K., Koski-Jannes, A., & Cordingley, J. (2005). Internet and paper self-help materials for problem drinking: Is there an additive effect? Addictive Behaviors. 30(8):1517-1523. Retrieved November 20, 2007 from doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2005.03.003.
Hingston, R., Heeren, T., Winter, M., & Wechsler, H. (2005). Magnitude of Alcohol-Related Mortality and Morbidity
Among U.S. College Students: Changes from 1998 to 2001. Annual Review of Public Health. 26:259-79.
Moyer, A., Finney, J. W., Swearingen, C. E., & Vergun, P. (2001). Brief interventions for alcohol problems: A
meta-analytic review of controlled investigations in treatment-seeking and non-treatment-seeking populations.
Addictions. 97: 279-292.
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Teens Divulge Risky Behavior on Social Networking Sites

Teens Divulge Risky Behavior on Social Networking Sites
But e-mail intervention may spur some adolescents to change, study finds
Posted January 6, 2009

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter
MONDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of teens who use the social networking site MySpace have posted information about sexual behavior, substance abuse or violence, new research shows.
The good news, according to a second study from the same research group, is that a simple intervention -- in this case, an-e-mail from a physician -- made some of the teens change their risky behaviors.
"I was surprised, at least to some extent, at how clearly teens were discussing behaviors that we struggle to get out of them," said Dr. Megan Moreno, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"Once we started getting the findings, we wondered, why are they doing this?" Moreno said. "Do they not get it? And, if they don't understand that this is public, can we send them a cautionary message to let them know just how public their information really is?" Moreno was working at the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Research Institute at the time the studies were done.
"We need to devise ways to teach teens and their parents to use the Internet responsibly," study senior author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute, said in a statement.
Results from the two studies appear in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
More than 90 percent of teens in the United States have access to the Internet, according to background information from the studies. About half of all teens who use the Internet also use social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook. MySpace boasts more than 200 million profiles, according to the studies, and about one-quarter of those belong to teens under 18.
Moreno and her colleagues randomly selected 500 MySpace profiles from people who reported their age as 18. They collected the information during the summer of 2007.
They found that 54 percent of the profiles contained information on risky behaviors, with 24 percent referencing sexual behaviors, 41 percent referring to substance abuse and 14 percent posting violent information.
Factors associated with a decreased risk of posting risky behaviors included displaying religious involvement or involvement with sports or hobbies.
For the second study, the researchers randomly selected 190 profiles of people between 18 and 20 who displayed risky behaviors, such as sexual information. Half were sent an e-mail from a physician that pointed out that the physician had noticed risky behavior on their profile and suggested changing the displayed information. The e-mail message also provided information on where to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
Almost 14 percent of those who got the e-mail deleted references to sexual behavior, compared with 5 percent of the others.
"This was a creative and unique way to reach kids," said Kimberly Mitchell, the author of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal and a research professor at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
Mitchell advised parents not to try to forbid their children from using these sites altogether. "It's important for parents to understand how important these social networking sites are to kids," she said. "They're here to stay, and they're not all evil. There can be some really positive aspects to these sites. But adolescents aren't necessarily thinking 10 years ahead, when employers or college administrators may look at these sites. Teens live in the here and now, so parents need to talk to kids about the longer-term impacts and help them think through some of the repercussions."
Moreno suggested that parents ask teens to show them their MySpace or Facebook pages. "Teens will definitely balk, but they balk at lots of things, like curfews," she said. "Some parents feel it's a violation of privacy, like reading a diary, but it's out there, it's public."
Parents should use this information as a conversation starter, Moreno suggested.
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Study: Social networks can have impact on health behavior

Study: Social networks can have impact on health behavior

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Pharma's Facebook

Pharma's Facebook

Research 2.0: How drug companies are using social networks to recruit
patients for clinical research.

Sarah Kliff

Newsweek Web Exclusive

Like most social-networking sites, is a place where users
talk about the most intimate details of their lives. They want advice on
coping with stage III cancer or to offer encouragement to a mother
deciding about life support for her premature baby. But Inspire's nearly
100,000 users aren't just sharing with each other (and the 62 nonprofits
who partner with the site), they're also receiving targeted information
from pharmaceutical companies who use the site as a recruiting tool for
drug studies. Opening this door between patients and drugmakers has some
obvious benefits but also raises a host of ethical and medical dilemmas.

On the plus side, those grappling with serious or chronic diseases get
to hear about clinical studies and new treatments that they might not
otherwise know about. Pharmaceutical companies get easy online access to
highly engaged populations with specific medical conditions. "One day we
come to you and say, 'There's a clinical trial going on, here's some
information, now it's your decision.' It lets the patients raise their
hand and say, 'I want to participate'," says Inspire's founder, Brian
Loew. Social networks not only allow pharmaceutical companies to hone in
on extremely specific populations, but also enable them to reach
patients who live far from major medical centers and typically never
hear about studies.

Recruitment has long been a bottleneck in medical research. Of the
approximately 50,000 clinical trials currently underway in the United
States, 80 percent are delayed at least a month because of low
enrollment. One problem: potential trial participants are often
skeptical and worried about safety. "There's an increasing wariness
about the pharmaceutical industry and the clinical trial process," says
Ken Kaitlin, director of the Center for the Study of Drug Development at
Tufts University in Boston. "It's not uncommon to hear about drugs taken
off the market because of major safety problems ... that makes the
public a little more concerned." Pharmaceuticals hope they can overcome
such fears by building partnerships with social networks that they can
mine for potential volunteers.

Loew launched Inspire in 2005, and spent the first three years building
up members in partnership with nonprofits, including The Lung Cancer
Alliance and National Organization for Rare Disorders. Now, with a core
group of users on the site, two major pharmaceuticals have begun
recruiting for clinical trials, one in the lung-cancer community and one
in arthritis. Inspire has partnerships with two other major
pharmaceuticals in the works. The drug companies pay Inspire a flat fee
for the recruiting service; the Web site's compensation does not hinge
on meeting a particular recruiting goal.

Three of the four pharmaceuticals working with Inspire declined to
discuss their interest in social networks, or even reveal their names.
The fourth, Merck, declined multiple requests for an interview but did
issue a brief statement on their commitment to "rapid and effective
enrollment of appropriate patients into trials" as to allow for "timely
development of innovative medicines."

Novartis, one of the first drugmakers to engage research participants
through a social network, partnered with to recruit
clinical-trial subjects for a multiple-sclerosis drug in 2008. "[Social
networking] hadn't been applied to clinical trials," saysTrevor Mundel,
head of exploratory clinical development at Novartis. "At the time, we
were having a lot of difficulty enrolling patients."

In May 2008, the site sent out a message to the 8,000 members of their
multiple-sclerosis community, alerting them to the Novartis trial. From
that e-mail, nearly 1,500 members visited the Novartis Web site. After
recruiting through, Novartis saw a boost in
registrations for the study, although they did not track which or how
many individuals enrolled because of the campaign-due to patient privacy
concerns. "The registration did start to pick up," says Mundel. "We
don't have the tracking, but I've got to believe some of it was
generated by the e-mails."

Nonprofits and government agencies remain hesitant about recruiting on
social networks because they see them as a relatively untested medium.
TrialCheck, a database of both private and public cancer studies, is
interested in using social networks, but is holding off until they have
more information. "Cancer patients should know all of their treatment
options, not just a select few trials that are promoted," says Dianne
Colaizzi, spokesperson for the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups.
"Another issue is how do patients discern the quality of the information
they find on social-networking sites? Many of the sites lack high
quality medical information from trusted sources."

Another problem: the reliability of data that comes from trials where
the participants may be communicating with each other. That doesn't
usually happen in medical studies. But if your study subjects are on the
same social-networking group, what's to stop people from swapping enough
information to figure out which of them is on the real medication vs.
the placebo, essentially "unblinding" the study?

"If you know what to expect because you're going online and seeing
what's happening [with other patients], the result is that the data
could come out biased," says Paul Bleicher, the CEO of a health-tech
startup in Cambridge, Mass., who has written on the role of social
networks in medicine. He doesn't think that pharmaceutical companies
have yet thought through these issues. Novartis's Mundel admits they
haven't figured it all out yet. "It's something which hasn't been worked
through, how [social networks] might worsen the accuracy of
adverse-event reporting," he says. "That's one concern we have to think
about and still don't totally understand."

Despite these drawbacks, clinical-trial recruitment on social networks
is expected to increase. Inspire says that it is signing up 100 new
members a week. As Bleicher writes in a recent article in Applied
Clinical Research, "Technology is here to stay, and it will bring
changes in communication and interactivity that we can't even
anticipate, along with many opportunities and some risk."

But as with all things Web, when things go right, the power of
connecting people is formidable. Take Susan Love's Army of Women, a site
that launched in November 2008 to solicit volunteers for preventative
breast-cancer research. The site capitalized on the
grassroots-organizing powers of the Internet and, largely through
members inviting friends, has amassed more than a quarter million
members that researchers can recruit for research exploring potential
risk factors for breast cancer.

The site is not a social network (although that may come soon), but does
take advantage of many innovative Web 2.0 tools, like blogs written by
researchers describing their study and how Army of Women members are
having an impact. But even if Army of Women does become a social
network, they're operating to collect information for prevention, not
testing the effectiveness of drugs on various conditions, so they're
less likely to run into problems where data is compromised by the
interaction of patients.

Perhaps most important, this site has been able to reach hard-to-find
but willing research participants including Theresa Passerelli. The
60-year-old hospital accountant lives in Warm Springs, a tiny town in
central Georgia with no stoplights or grocery stores. She's 70 miles
from a major medical center, but is participating in important
breast-cancer research on sisters of women with breast cancer. "You have
the walkathons, but those don't advance science," says Passerelli. "When
I saw the Army of Women, I was more than willing to give them my body
and let them do whatever, if there's a possibility there will be some
kind of breakthrough."


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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nielsen: Social Nets Overtake E-mail

Nielsen: Social Nets Overtake E-mail

As online paradigm shifts, advertisers must find a way to add value,
rather than follow the 'push' model

March 9, 2009

-By Brian Morrissey

NEW YORK Social networking has overtaken e-mail as the most popular
Internet activity, according to a new study
> released by Nielsen.

Active reach in what Nielsen defines as "member communities" now exceeds
e-mail participation by 67 percent to 65 percent. What's more, the reach
of social networking and blogging venues is growing at twice the rate of
other large drivers of Internet use such as portals, e-mail and search.

Nielsen, which is the parent company of Adweek, concluded that the shift
to social activity online would have profound effects on marketers and
publishers. For publishers, social networks are eating into time spent
with other online activities, according to Nielsen. For advertisers, the
phenomenon at this stage represents mostly unfulfilled promise for a
deeper connection with consumers who are more difficult to reach in
social environments.

The rise of social media coincides with the decline of portals. Social
networking appears to be snatching away users' online time formerly
spent with e-mail, traditionally a large draw to portals. Such
fragmentation is decreasing portals' importance to advertisers. In a
separate report, top digital shop Razorfish said its spending at portals
declined from 24 percent in 2006 to 16 percent in 2008.

Nielsen found that two-thirds of the world's Internet users visited a
social networking site in 2008. All told, social media now accounts for
almost 10 percent of Internet time. Facebook is leading the pack
worldwide, with monthly visits by three out of 10 Internet users in nine
global markets, per Nielsen.

The growth in social media is not confined to the U.S. Nielsen charted
comparable or higher growth for Australia, Spain, Italy and the United

Yet for now, user growth at social sites is outpacing advertising
increases, per Nielsen. This will likely change, Nielsen said, as models
shift to value engagement over exposure.

"As the online industry matures and the value of online real estate is
increasingly measured by time spent, rather than pages viewed, a
significant shift in advertising revenue from 'traditional' online media
towards social media could be realized -- if the successful ad model can
be found," the report stated.

The search for a workable ad model is even more urgent now that social
media has broken out of the youth demographic, Nielsen found. For
example, Facebook's greatest growth has come from 35-49-year-olds, and
it has added twice as many 50-64-year-olds as those under 18.

Yet advertising and social media to date have mixed like oil and water.
Part of that is a function of social media's communications role --
advertising has typically performed poorly in chat and e-mail. The
larger challenge for advertising is to move from an interruptive role to
joining conversations. That means advertisers need to find ways to add
value to users' experiences, Nielsen found.

"Whatever the successful ad model turns out to be, the messaging will
have to be authentic and humble, and built on the principle of two-way
conversation -- not a push model -- that adds value to the consumer,"
the report said.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Web Users Shaping Consumer Opinion

Web Users Shaping Consumer Opinion

source: media post

According to a new report from Netpop Research,  "Media Shifts to Social," the percent of time people spend communicating online has increased 18% since 2006, while time spent on entertainment has declined 29%. The Executive Summary says that Online entertainment is shifting to a small, powerful proportion of social media contributors fueling Web activity through blogs micro-blogs, social media, video and photo sharing.

 Key Findings from the study include data such as:

  • 105 million Americans contribute to social media
  • Social networking has grown 93% since 2006
  • 7 million Americans are "heavy" social media contributors (6+ activities) who connect with 248 people on a ‘one to many' basis in a typical week
  • 54% of micro-bloggers post or "tweet" daily
  • 72% of micro-bloggers under age 18 post or "tweet" daily

The report concludes that market trends and customer opinion are being shaped by end users more rapidly and with greater impact on business than ever before as an entirely new form of leisure develops around talking and sharing, providing opinions and perspectives... and suggests that Websites need to connect directly with users or the users will create their own venues that are harder for companies to track and participate with effectively.

The study includes the differences in use and frequency among younger users, teens and college students, and light, medium and heavy social media users to understand usage habits and motivations. It also describes photo-sharing, video-sharing, micro-blogging, social networking, tagging, wikis, etc. among 20 online communication and social media channels.

Please visit here to access the full report from Netpop Research and view a slide preview

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Follow JDRF at the White House on Twitter!

Follow JDRF at the White House on Twitter! 

President Barack Obama will be signing an Executive Order lifting the federal ban on embryonic stem cell research on Monday in a ceremony at the White House.  A few JDRF volunteers and staff will be at the White House to represent the Foundation.

This is a special moment for everyone that has worked so hard over the past decade.  JDRF wants to make sure that, even though everyone that made this moment possible can’t be at the White House, we can get you as close as possible to the Oval Office!

Follow Each Moment on Twitter
We will do this through a website called Twitter.  Twitter is a website that lets you update your friends and family on what you’re up to.  You can also follow others to find out what’s new with them.  JDRF has set-up a Twitter account (JDRFAdvocacy) so you can follow what we’re up to everyday.  You can find out more about how the site works at

Signing-up for a Twitter account is very easy.  Once you’ve provided just a few pieces of information, your personal Twitter page will be all set. 

To follow updates from JDRF’s Larry Soler directly from the White House through our new Twitter account, follow these simple steps:

1. Visit and click ‘Join Now’.
2. Provide a few pieces of information for your Twitter page.
3. You’re all set!  Larry’s updates will begin in the morning before the event begins, during the event, and through the post-event receptions.
4. Forward this to a friend.

Thank you again.  See you from the Oval Office!


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Breaking News: Merck to Buy Schering-Plough in $41.1 Billion Cash, Stock Deal

New Jersey-based drug makers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. announced plans to combine in a $41.1 billion cash-and-stock deal that comes six weeks after rivals Pfizer Inc. and Wyeth unveiled their engagement.

The announcements come as the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies face a litany of pressures -- from product pipelines that likely won't be able to offset companies' blockbusters that will lose patent protection in the coming years to the potential of increased government pressure to lower prices. Merck and Schering-Plough already had a relationship through their cholesterol-drug joint venture, which has seen its sales slump.

"The combined company will benefit from a formidable research and development pipeline, a significantly broader portfolio of medicines and an expanded presence in key international markets, particularly in high-growth emerging markets," Merck Chairman and Chief Executive Richard T. Clark said in a joint press release. (Read the companies' statement.)

In discussing Merck's quarterly earnings last month, Mr. Clark had said the drug maker was open to buying a big rival, signaling a shift for a company that long maintained its research prowess was enough to keep it growing.

Mr. Clark would oversee the combined company, which will retain the Merck name. Three Schering-Plough board members would join Merck's board. Schering-Plough Chairman and Chief Executive Fred Hassan said he "intends to participate in the integration planning until the close."

In an interview, Mr. Clark said the integration is expected to result in a work-force reduction of about 15%, with a high percentage of the job eliminations happening outside the U.S.

Merck, of Whitehouse Station, N.J., has about 55,200 employees world-wide, with 28,000 in the U.S., according to a regulatory filing. Kenilworth, N.J.-based Schering-Plough has about 51,000 global employees, with just 15,000 in the U.S.

Both companies had been laying off employees even before the acquisition deal was struck. Like other major drug makers, they have been contending with lackluster sales growth, hurt by competition from generic drug makers and now the economic downturn.

"Of course when the market is in a mood of desolation, this is often the best time to effect a merger or acquisition," said David Buik of BGC Partners. He added the deal "seems to make huge sense with a cost-cutting exercise imperative, with the Obama administration hell bent on giving the drug companies a very hard time, offering the generic operators a brilliant opportunity."

Some $3.5 billion a year in cost savings are anticipated beyond 2011. Schering-Plough is expected to "modestly" add to Merck's earnings, excluding charges related to the deal, in the first year after its completion and "significantly" thereafter.

Under the deal, Schering-Plough shareholders would get 0.5767 share of Merck and $10.50 in cash for each share they own. That values Schering-Plough at $23.61 a share, a 34% premium to Friday's closing price. Merck shareholders would own 68% of the combined company.

In premarket trading, Schering-Plough jumped 18% to $20.80 while Merck fell 4.4% to $21.75. Mr. Buik noted that Schering-Plough shares advanced nearly 10% in a Friday afternoon rally.

Some 44% of the deal will be cash, with $9.8 billion coming from existing balances and $8.5 billion from committed financing from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Merck said its board is committed to keeping its dividend at current levels, which is triple the payment Schering-Plough holders now get. Merck's vow contrasts with Pfizer, which will halve its dividend, the yield of which had been the highest of the major drug makers.

Pfizer's deal for Wyeth, valued at $68 billion when it was unveiled in January, represents the largest takeover in the pharmaceutical sector since Glaxo Wellcome PLC acquired SmithKline Beecham PLC for $76 billion in 2000.

The two companies' cholesterol-drug joint venture has been under pressure for a year following an early 2008 study raised questions about the effectiveness of Zetia. The results sent prescriptions of Zetia and sister drug Vytorin, which combines Zetia with Merck's Zocor, plummeting.

Mr. Hassan took over Schering-Plough six years ago as chairman and CEO at a time when the company has dealt with manufacturing troubles which led to a $500 million fine. At the time, it was said taking over Schering-Plough would test his mettle as a turnaround expert.

Now while the company is in stronger financial shape, its stock sits at the same level it did when Mr. Hassan took charge amid 50% price drop the past 18 months.

Write to Kevin Kingsbury at

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