WebMd reported fourth-quarter 2008 results after the market closed today, highlighting audience growth and increasing advertising/sponsorship revenues, even as the broader market for online advertising was weak. Revenue grew 15 percent to $111.5 million, EBITDA was essentially flat versus 2007 at $33.8 million, and earnings per share from continuing operations was $0.57 versus $0.75 during the prior year’s quarter. Highlights from the quarter include:
— Advertising and sponsorship revenue grew 21 percent during the quarter. The growth was likely due to sponsorships, where companies underwrite sections of the http://www.webmd.com site, rather than display advertising, which was estimated to be down in the double-digits across the industry during the quarter.
— Private portal licensing, where the company licenses its content to businesses, grew 8 percent in the quarter as the number of clients increased to 134 from 117 during the same period in 2007.
— Monthly unique visitors, which includes results from owned and operated sites outside the webmd.com domain like medscape.com, grew 51 percent to 54 million. The company claims monthly pageviews across its network grew 30 percent to 1.3 billion.
The company said in its press release that advertising and sponsorship revenue is expected to grow 15 percent during the first quarter 2009. With its solid fourth-quarter results, WebMD (NSDQ: WBMD) appears to be distancing itself further from its closest competitor, Revolution Health, which recently merged with Waterfront Media.