The Gannett Company has sold a 32-page issue of an insert entitled “USA Weekend HealthSmart” to drug company advertisers and to newspapers across the country. The New York Times reports that the insert appeared in 76 newspapers with an estimated circulation of 7.5 million.
I was one. I am no smarter for having scanned the section. I have, however, become familiar with many more drug ads thanks to this piece of fish-wrap. You can’t call it news. There’s lots of “advice.” And then there are all the ads.
There is one four-page spread from Astra-Zeneca that could lead just about any reader to self-diagnose with bipolar disorder. The ads ask if there’s ever been a period when you flew off the handle at little things…needed less sleep…felt irritable…were much more interested in sex than usual, etc. If so, the ad goes, you may need treatment for bipolar disorder. Gee, that’s about 100% of us. What a nice market!
Sadly, this won’t be the last of such bombardments. The Times reports: “Executives at USA Weekend initially considered the issue to be a test. But after seeing the results — more than 16 advertising pages, from marketers like AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, bringing in more than $3 million in revenue… they are already looking at publishing HealthSmart again, perhaps as soon as the fourth quarter.”
And the Times story suggests this is a sign of the health of U.S. newspapers. If this is healthy, I don’t want to see sickness.