Image Credit: Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The way that scholars read academic journals is changing. Rather than sifting through print journal issues, today’s scholars are conducting the majority of their research online. And they are increasingly using free search engines and indexes to find the information they need.

This shift in research behavior means that scholars are often searching for relevant articles rather than particular journals. OA journal publishers are starting to gain a leg up in discovery, as many researchers are prioritizing open content in their searches. But for a journal to become well-known and develop a reputation in its field being found by scholars in targeted searches isn’t enough. OA publishers must take steps to develop a loyal readership.

Once a scholar finds your journal, what can you do to encourage them to come back?

Apart from the obvious - publishing high-quality articles - you’ll need to focus on developing the journal’s online presence starting with its website. Your journal’s websites should be more than a storehouse for articles. It should be a place for readers to learn about the mission and broader impacts of your publication, as well as to stay up-to-date on the latest journal articles and news.

Let’s take a look at four ways to get scholars to frequent your OA journal website with examples from Scholastica’s publishing platform.

If you want readers to frequent your journal, you have to share updates about it in the online venues that they’re frequenting! One of the best ways to do this is to share new journal articles and publication updates on social media. The recent “How Readers Discover Content in Scholarly Publications“ report, produced by Renew Publishing Consultants, found that researchers’ use of social media for research sharing and discovery has been growing since 2012 with Facebook and Twitter among the most popular platforms – so if you join either platform you’re sure to get in front of scholars.

Once you have a Twitter and/or Facebook account that you are sharing journal updates on, you should connect it to your journal website so readers can quickly see that your journal is active on social media and follow its accounts. Journals that use Scholastica’s OA publishing platform can add links to their Twitter and Facebook profiles to the top navigation of their website pages. Those that link to a Twitter account will also get the benefit of Twitter cards — when anyone shares a link to one of your journal’s articles on Twitter a “card” will automatically be generated to accompany the post that contains the article image and a brief description.

Easily add Twitter and Facebook links to Scholastica journal website template

Social media is one of the most powerful promotion outlets that OA journals have at their disposal. Most social media accounts are free to set up, so it’s an affordable promotion strategy to pursue. Additionally, one of the main benefits of social media is that it doesn’t take long to gain an audience. By engaging with journal editors and authors who are active on social media, as well as scholars and relevant organizations in your journal’s field (think shares, retweets, and likes!), you can quickly develop a following.

You can set up one or more social media accounts devoted to a particular journal, or you may want to promote your journal from an organizational account. For example, some scholarly societies that publish journals, like The British Blockchain Association, promote their journals from their society social media pages.

Start a journal blog so you frequently have fresh content to share

As you develop a social media following for your journal, make sure you’re frequently publishing fresh content to share with followers. One of the best ways to do this is to start a journal blog. Blogging offers the opportunity to regularly post journal updates and digestible content about timely topics in your journal’s field, in addition to articles and issues.

JBBA Blog

For example, The Journal of the British Blockchain Association (JBBA) has a blog where they post about relevant topics like “why governments are backing blockchain” and where they share updates about the journal and its society publisher including calls for papers and conference announcements. If you use Scholastica’s open access publishing platform your website already comes with blogging functionality.

You may be thinking, setting up a blog sounds easy enough, but who’s going to run it? Good question! Maintaining an active journal blog doesn’t have to be a lot of work for your editors. Consider seeking graduate students to help run the blog and soliciting posts from authors. For example, journals can invite authors to submit an overview of their research article or a post on a related topic.

Publish articles on a rolling basis so scholars can access them as soon as they’re ready

Another way to publish journal content more frequently is to publish articles on a rolling basis as they’re ready instead of waiting to publish articles in journal issues. For example, Survey Practice, the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s e-journal, publishes all articles as they’re accepted and then compiles them into journal issues by year for citation purposes.

When you publish articles on a rolling basis, you’ll have more frequent opportunities to share article announcements on social media. Readers will also get to know that your journal publishes articles regularly and may be more likely to visit your website to look for the latest research in the field.

Set up an RSS feed for your journal so readers can be alerted to new articles

Finally, you can encourage readers to frequent your journal website by giving them the ability to add it to their favorite RSS reader. The reader will alert them to new content as it’s published. If you’re unfamiliar with RSS, it stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” There are various RSS readers such as Feedly and Feeder that can “read” machine-readable RSS files from websites chosen by a user and create a “feed” of all of the new content published on the websites for that user.

Example RSS feed from Discrete Analysis

Scholastica generates RSS feeds for all of the journals that use our open access publishing platform. When readers click the RSS icon on a journal website a popup appears, as shown above, with the journal’s RSS URL. Readers can paste that URL right into the search bar of their favorite RSS reader and elect to follow the journal so that they see new journal content in their RSS feed. RSS updates for journals publishing on Scholastica include articles and blog posts with images and brief descriptions.

Overall OA journal websites should give readers multiple engagement opportunities

If you want to develop a loyal journal following, you have to give readers a reason to frequent your website. By regularly publishing high-quality articles and journal updates and making it easy for readers to learn about your journal’s latest articles and news you can encourage readers to visit your publication more often. As you create new online engagement opportunities for readers, your journal will start to become known as a timely publication to follow in its field.