World's Most Popular
Natural Health Web Site
Mercola.com is one of the world's most popular health web sites, with more than 850,000 subscribers and 2.5 million visitors each month.
"Think of Mercola.com as the meeting place for a real health democracy," says Dr. Mercola. "You'll find a depth of knowledge and information on any health topic, but you'll also get access to the information that thousands of others have voted MOST useful in any given category. It's an invaluable and easy-to-use tool to improve your health."
The story of Mercola.com and its growth to a $100 million web site is, like most stories in the newly emerging wellness industry, the story of a single individual.
Dr. Mercola was born in 1954 and grew up in inner-city Chicago. At age 13 he read "Aerobics" by Dr. Kenneth Cooper and developed a lifelong passion for exercise that has continued to this day. He graduated college in 1975 and worked for the University of Illinois before attending medical school.
At the university, Joe developed a nationwide system for locating kidney transplant recipients through the Internet. "Once a kidney is harvested," explained Joe, "you have only 72 hours maximum to implant it in a donor or you have to throw away the kidney."
This experience allowed him to see firsthand the positive impact the Internet could have on medicine.
He entered medical school in 1978 and graduated as a D.O. or osteopathic physician in 1982. D.O.s are trained to treat the whole person and to focus on prevention as well as sickness—my wife, who is a UCLA-trained biologist, hired a D.O. as the obstetrician for the birth of our children. D.O.s are complete physicians who, along with MDs, are licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery in all 50 states. After graduating medical school in 1982, Joe completed his residency in 1985 and served as the Chairman of Family Medicine for the St. Alexius Medical Center for five years.
During this time, Dr. Mercola wrote prescriptions and practiced traditional medicine until he became aware that this approach was not working for many of his patients. He founded his own clinic just outside Chicago in 1985, The Optimal Wellness Center, based on his belief that people needed to be empowered to take control of their own health. He dug into the research to learn the secrets of natural medicine, and developed a network of alternative medicine physicians to share ideas and patient experiences. And he started a newsletter to share what he was learning with both patients and colleagues. Mercola.com was founded in 1997 originally as just a place to share his newsletters.
Over the next few years, Mercola.com morphed into the world's largest collection of natural health information from all sources, with Dr. Mercola acting as the unpaid editor and gatekeeper to insure that the information was bona fide. Before he realized it was happening, he had invested $500,000 of his own money, not including years of his life without compensation—and his web site was still 100 percent free to everyone.
He realized that he had to do something to create revenue to maintain the web site, but he was determined not to charge his users or to accept advertising from third parties.
He hit upon the idea of distributing to his readers only those health items that he would recommend as a physician to his patients. By 2002, sales were $1 million and rose to $15 million by 2006. These sales more than supported the main objective of Mercola.com—distributing natural health and wellness information without charge and without advertising—and allowed Dr. Mercola and his family a comfortable million-dollar income.
Mercola.com morphed again in 2006 into a social networking Web 2.0 web site where wellness professionals and consumers can collaborate and share information. One of the most important features on the web site today, in a fast-moving field like wellness, is that readers can vote on their opinion of each article or posting, and share their comments. Thus, you not only get cutting-edge information, you get the opinion of this information from other patients and health professionals.
Mercola.com averages more than 3,000 new subscribers every day, and, with 10 million visitors each week, is worth more than $100 million if it were ever sold. Not bad for a web site built by a doctor without any outside investment or external advertising. But Dr. Mercola is the first to tell you that Mercola.com is still in its infancy.
For every million people already visiting Mercola.com, there are tens or hundreds of millions simply unaware of wellness and how much natural medicine can improve their health.