Journal editors have always had to be masters of wearing many hats, taking on new roles and responsibilities to meet changing needs. In today’s digitally-driven research landscape, those “hats” continue multiplying, with “journal promoter” rising toward the top of the pile.
When working with a new journal, it’s common for editorial teams to engage in promotion efforts to help raise awareness of the title. But, if you work with a reputable journal published by a well-known scholarly society or university press, you may wonder whether independently promoting your publication is worth the extra time and effort. And it makes sense — many journals have traditionally attracted readers and submissions through their publishing organization’s marketing efforts, including its website, annual conferences, and, in some cases, advertisements in industry outlets. Why should editors at reputable journals worry about independent promotion now if it’s never been a concern?
A lot of it comes down to the latest scholarly communication industry statistics. The number of new journals published each year is growing at an unprecedented rate of 5%, up from around 3.5% over the last two centuries. More journals mean more competition in all disciplines for readers and submissions. While a reputation for publishing high-quality content at the journal and publisher level will always be the number one way for journals to set themselves apart in the eyes of authors and readers, regular promotion is becoming paramount to building and retaining a following, even for the most established titles.
In this blog post, we break down four reasons editors should independently promote their scholarly journals and suggestions to get started:
While scholars may know your journal well, odds are most aren’t going straight to your website when conducting research. The bulk of research is now done via academic indexes and search engines. As a result, rather than checking specific journals for content, scholars are focusing on finding the most relevant articles, wherever they may be. There are many steps that journals can and should take, with the support of their publisher, to improve their article discoverability, such as applying for inclusion in relevant indexes and following search-engine-optimization best practices. But, by default, these are passive forms of awareness. So rather than waiting for readers to find you, your editors should also actively promote new and timely journal content to attract them.
Among some of the most effective and affordable outlets for journal promotion are social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Mastodon. If you’re thinking, my publisher already has social media profiles, so my journal is all set, that may be the case. But first, ask yourself if your publisher can devote enough time and “digital air space” to your publication.
Often, publishers have to spread their promotion efforts across multiple journals and potentially books and monographs, as well as organization-wide news. Even in the case of a journal that is the only title published by a scholarly society, the society’s promotion outlets will still be mixing journal updates with society updates and news of member programs and initiatives. While any promotion your publisher can offer is a plus, if they can only share periodic updates about your journal, you’re likely not getting as much exposure as you may think.
Let’s take a quick look at some Facebook and LinkedIn stats. Did you know that the average lifespan of a Facebook post is just 50 minutes? The average lifespan of a LinkedIn post is a bit better at 24 hours, but that’s still a quick turnover. Given the short lifespan of social media posts, the only way to get a significant number of audience impressions and engagements for journal updates is to post them continuously, something many publishers logistically can’t do for all of their titles.
Choosing to have even one dedicated journal social media outlet run by the editorial team, such as a journal Facebook or LinkedIn profile can exponentially improve the odds of those in and outside academia finding, reading, and talking about your articles. Your journal can use social media outlets to announce new articles and issues and develop a scholarly network (like the examples in this blog post!).
To get the benefits of having an active social media profile without having to devote time to planning posts every day, consider making a monthly content calendar and using a social media scheduling tool to queue up posts in advance. Many even offer free options like Buffer and Twittimer.
You can spread the task of social media post scheduling among editors, or you may find a social-media-savvy person on your team who is eager to take the lead. In addition to scheduled posts, stay open to impromptu posting opportunities such as live-tweeting during conferences and events. Aim to post to your social networks at least two times a day (ideally three or more) to ensure your content reaches a wide enough audience.
Of course, there are many other promotion options that your journal may want to explore in addition to social media. For example, you can help readers stay abreast of all your latest articles by setting up a publication email list and sending out regular updates, or adding an RSS option to your journal website. You may even want to launch a publication blog or podcast to highlight your latest articles and journal news. It’s best to start small with one or two new promotion initiatives and work your way up. As in any publishing endeavor, quality is vastly more important than quantity.
Promoting your journal will also help you get in front of potential authors. Scholars that see your journal promoting articles on topics similar to the research they’re working on will likely take notice and may earmark your publication for their next submission. Your team can also use journal promotion outlets like social media profiles or a publication blog to post calls for papers for general and special issues. You can even keep an email list of past authors and periodically reach out to them to thank them for their contributions and encourage them to submit future work.
Online promotion outlets, such as LinkedIn and email, can also be used to post calls for peer reviewers. While seasoned scholars likely won’t be raising their hands for more review assignments, early-career researchers are a different story. Many are looking for opportunities to get academic publishing experience and will likely be eager to respond to your invitation.
Additionally, you can use promotion outlets to show thanks to peer reviewers, which can help to improve reviewer retention. For example, if your journal publishes an annual reviewer recognition list, you can share it via your promotion outlets, like email or social media.
By actively promoting your journal, you can also incentivize authors to submit their work to your publication over competing titles. Many authors see journal promotion as an added publication value. Authors want to publish in journals that are not only prestigious but also reach a wide readership within and beyond academia and elicit online engagement.
The rise of article-level metrics, like Altmetric and Plum Analytics, as well as new research assessment models, such as the UK Research Excellence Framework, have put increasing emphasis on alternative indicators of research impacts beyond citation counts. As a result, many scholars are eager to demonstrate high readership stats and examples of broader awareness of and engagement with their work within and outside of academia, including in news outlets, public policy documents, blogs, and even social media. These types of impact indicators paint a more detailed picture of how scholarly works are read, used, and shared online. They also generally accrue much faster than citations, which can help early-career researchers and those writing in fields with lower citation rates to show that their research is getting noticed.
To take the value of your journals’ promotion efforts for authors a step further, you can also work with your publisher to provide authors with proof of the broader impacts of their works. For example, your journal can send authors article pageview and download counts to help them demonstrate they are reaching a wide readership. You can also explore options to include alternatives metrics on article pages, such as using Altmetric Badges. If you’re using Scholastica’s fully OA publishing platform, we even have an Altmetric Badge integration to help. Articles published via Scholastica also include public-facing metrics pages where authors and readers can see article pageview and download stats in the past seven days, 30 days, and all time, and a breakdown of the top 10 countries readers came from.
As your journal collects publishing metrics, you can also use them to guide your future promotion plans, as explained in this blog post.
Journal promotion outlets, especially social media, also present opportunities to breathe life into your publication via online engagement.
Your journal’s social media feeds need not be passive streams of content. In fact, that’s something to try to avoid. Instead, use social media outlets to interact with scholars online. For example, when sharing new articles, you can make a point to tag the authors and their institutions in your posts so they are sure to see and have the opportunity to reshare them. You can also more directly interact with scholars and other organizations in your journal’s field on social media by sharing and commenting on the content that they post. Engaging with content within your journal’s discipline beyond your article and publication updates is a great way to make your social media profiles more diverse and dynamic, which can help you attract more followers.
Having dedicated promotion outlets for your journal can also open up collaborative promotion opportunities with your publisher. For example, if your publisher is active on social media, you can work together to amplify each other’s posts by sharing and engaging with them. Journals published by scholarly societies can even work to identify opportunities to strategically leverage journal content to provide new value to members such as by repurposing articles into resources for continuing education.
Now that we’ve overviewed the many benefits of independently promoting your journal, are you ready to get started?
As noted, there are many potential promotion outlets to explore. You can learn more about different promotion methods and how to use them in our free Scholarly Journal Promotion 101 Handbooks Series.
Update note: This blog post was originally published on the 5th of February 2015, and updated on the 7th of April 2023.