Are you publishing your scholarly journal the same way online as you would publish it in print? And, if so, have you asked yourself why?
In the print publishing model journals publish articles once and then have to move on to printing their next issues, with few opportunities to resurface, or share and republish, old content. But, with the dawn of digital publishing all of this has changed. On the internet your journal faces virtually no limitations because, unlike print, online publications don’t have to follow a one-size-fits-all format. From the number of pages you publish to the articles you choose to highlight on your website, the sky’s the limit. Bringing us back to the question - why publish your journal online in the same way you would a print journal? Digital publishing is ripe with opportunities to resurface content that you could be using to extend the reach of your articles.
In recent years mainstream news media and blogs have been finding creative ways to resurface old articles, and some journals have been catching on. Want to know how your journal can start doing the same? Here are 5 steps you can take to start resurfacing content:
One of the primary benefits readers get from mainstream digital publishing is personalization. Most people don’t visit online blogs or news outlets with the intention of reading every new article published. They visit in order to check for content that’s of interest to them, generally by clicking into different website sections or categories.
Take a look at the example from the Scientific American website, below.
Consider how you would navigate this website. When you enter, you might scan the homepage for any new articles that catch your interest. Once you’ve spotted something you’d like to read there, your next move will likely be to visit the topic in which you’re most interested whether it be “health,” “tech” or one of the other categories listed in the website’s navigation bar. Scientific American makes it easy for readers to select articles of interest because it arranges articles by topic, rather than by magazine issue like they would appear in its print edition. By arranging articles by topic Scientific American also makes it more likely for readers to spot past articles. In this way, organizing articles by topic can help readers resurface old content. Journals can follow this article organization model to get the same content resurfacing benefits.
When the Scholastica team designed the website for new free-to-read and free-to-publish-in math journal Discrete Analysis, launched by Sir Timothy Gowers, we kept content resurfacing in mind and helped the journal organize its articles by topic, like Scientific American and other mainstream sites. Scholars visiting Discrete Analysis can access a running list of all new and old articles on particular topics to quickly spot articles of interest to them, unlike journals that force visitors to scroll through long lists of articles organized by issue, which can get tedious and lead to scholars leaving the website before finding anything to read.
As journal’s leave behind the convention of organizing their online articles by issue, many are also recognizing that in online publishing it’s not necessary to follow the issue model at all. Some journals are choosing to follow a rolling publication model in order to publish new research faster, among other benefits.
In the above example of Scientific American, we mentioned that many viewers coming to the publication’s website would likely peruse its homepage before navigating to the topic they’re most interested in. The same will likely go for your journal. Your homepage is your opportunity to showcase your newest and top content to readers. One of the easiest ways to do this is to highlight the content you want readers to pay special attention to by placing it in callout sections on your homepage.
For example, as pictured below, Vox.com has a “top” section on it’s homepage where its editors showcase top articles, videos, maps, and other content they put out.
Your journal can similarly showcase your top articles, media, or datasets on your homepage. You can determine your top content via analytics tracking such as Google Analytics (free software from Google) or an altmetrics tracking service. Based on the analytics source you use, you can explain how you made your top articles selection for your website, whether it be articles that got the most page views, most mentions in mainstream media, or some other criterion. Top content lists are a great opportunity to resurface past articles, because it often takes some time for articles to gain traction in the scholarly community. When you showcase current activity around past articles you make it more likely for scholars who weren’t aware of those articles to check them out.
In addition to using your homepage to highlight your top articles, you can also use it to broadcast calls for papers, as pictured in the example below from Hybrid Pedagogy’s journal website.
By posting specific calls for papers on your homepage you may catch the eye of scholars who hadn’t been planning on submitting to your journal and potentially change their mind if they see that you have the perfect place for a manuscript they’re working on. Calls for submissions on your homepage can also serve as sort of “teasers,” giving readers a glimpse at new content they should be on the lookout for in the near future.
If your journal receives many submissions related to a particular topic or area of study, or if you choose to solicit special issues of related manuscripts, another strategy you can use to resurface content is to repurpose related articles into an online series or eBook. This is a strategy mainstream news outlets and blogs often use to generate more interest around a group of articles and to make it easier for readers to find related content.
Below is an example of a series from the London School of Economics Impact Blog. The Impact Blog put together a series on “The Accelerated Academy,” for which it solicited articles from academics about the high-speed nature of their life as researchers and professors. This series was featured on the Impact Blog homepage while it was running. After the series ran it was also added to the “series” link in the top navigation bar of the Impact Blog. So readers visiting the Impact Blog today can still find this series and other compilations of related content the blog has published by visiting the “series” link.
Some journals are similarly creating articles series and even eBooks of related articles, like a selection of journals from MIT Press including International Security, Linguistic Inquiry, and The New England Quarterly, which pooled together their articles on related topics and repackaged them in eBooks called “BATCHES.”
When you visit a new blog or website that you love, you find yourself wanting to take steps to remember it. We all like to keep tabs on our go-to sources of information either by bookmarking those sites, following them on Twitter, or better yet subscribing for daily, weekly, or monthly updates from our sites of choice. You’ve likely been presented with and embraced this opportunity when visiting your favorite sites. For example, as shown in the image below, National Geographic makes it easy for visitors to sign up for updates by displaying a signup window to all of its website visitors from its homepage.
Your journal can do the same. You can add a “subscribe” option to your website and then send regular emails to your list to share your journal articles, issues, and other news. You can also send your subscriber list special content you create to resurface old articles such as lists of top articles, a new journal series, or an eBook.
As you build in new ways to promote your newest content and resurface old articles on your website, you may also want to consider starting a website blog. Blogging is a great way to add some color to the research you publish by presenting information in a more digestible format than the traditional academic paper.
Your journal can start a blog as a place for your editors to communicate what your publication is working on and for authors to share more accessible overviews of their published works. Below is an image of a blog started by the Journal of the History of Ideas. The journal uses its blog as a place for scholars to write short form posts about topics of interest to them or to recap information about their articles.
As with your main journal website, be sure to organize your blog by topic areas, so scholars can easily navigate to posts on topics of interest to them.
Another option to build content resurfacing into your website besides a blog is using video. For example, Gastrointestinal Endoscopy posts video interviews of its authors describing their latest published research on the journal website, as pictured below.
Gastrointestinal Endoscopy films many of its author interviews during the annual American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) meeting. If your journal doesn’t have an opportunity like a major conference to get a bunch of authors in the same room, you can also do your video work online. In addition to its conference videos, GIE invites authors of accepted articles to submit their own video interviews to its blog, which can either be Q&A interviews or videos of themselves discussing their work.
Whether you choose to start a written blog or log of videos for your journal you’ll be taking a great step to get readers more engaged with your content and to expand its reach.
Have you taken any steps to resurface content on your journal’s website? Or, do you have any questions about content resurfacing? Let us know by tweeting at @Scholasticahq!