We’re continuing Scholastica’s blog series on the biggest opportunities independent journal publishers see in 2023 with an insights-packed interview with Jennifer Regala, Director of Publications at the American Urological Association. Jennifer oversees the AUA’s scholarly publications program, which includes three peer-reviewed journals, the organization’s newsletter, a digital membership ecosystem, annual meeting-related publications, and a continuing medical education product. As a premier urologic association, the AUA’s mission is to “promote the highest standards of urological clinical care through education, research and the formulation of health care policy.”

Thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to be part of this series! We invite you to join the conversation by sharing your thoughts, questions, and examples of other key journal developments you’re excited about in the comments and on social media. Be sure to follow Scholastica on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for the latest updates!

Interview with Jennifer Regala

Below, Jennifer responds to the question:

What are the biggest opportunities you see for independent academic publishers to further their journal programs in 2023 and beyond, and why?

I started at the AUA in June of 2020, and I have to say I walked into the best leadership I could have possibly hoped to have. Our internal AUA team was very open to innovation, modernization, and relevance, and so was my editorial leadership. Everyone here is ready to embrace change and wants the organization’s publications to be the best in urology and really best in class in scholarly publishing. I think having that kind of culture of innovation is the first part of finding and embracing publishing opportunities.

To identify new opportunities, starting in the summer of 2020, we worked with Delta Think to analyze everything about our publishing program. Our goal was to devise a five-year strategy encompassing all of our publications. At the time, those were The Journal of Urology, our flagship title; Urology Practice, which we launched in 2014; and AUANews, which at that time was a very traditional tabloid-size print membership newsletter. We also produce multiple annual-meeting-related products.

Now that I’ve given some context, I’ll break down the different areas we decided to focus on.

Launching a new OA journal:

When we worked with Delta Think, we found that one thing we needed to focus on was launching an open access (OA) journal. They helped us study what the urology market would bear as far as APCS and to understand if there was a desire to publish OA. With the help of Delta Think and our publishing partner Wolters Kluwer, we also realized we were losing quality content from theJournal of Urology because much of our rejected work was getting published elsewhere.

So, in August of 2022, we opened submissions for a new online-only Gold OA journal called JU Open Plus, and we had our first issue in January of 2023. We had five fully-composed articles as part of that initial issue, and it’s exciting because we have many more in the queue. We also worked to get a manuscript cascade transfer set up. So now, if you’re submitting within our family of journals, we have a system for cascading submissions amongst our publications.

We now have three scholarly peer-reviewed journals under the AUA brand with the new OA title, and I would say we’re open to possibly expanding in the future. Would that mean additional OA publications? That’s what we’re looking at now. We already know the future is bright for JU Open Plus because we have a lot of interest in it, and it’s still brand new.

Investing in supplementary content for readership growth and sponsorship opportunities:

Then where things get really interesting is AUANews, which we include in our “family” of journals, so to speak, although AUANews is obviously not peer reviewed.

To paint the picture, in 2020, AUA News was a pretty slim 24- to 30-page monthly tabloid-sized newsletter with member information and some clinical articles. Since then, we have tripled our content, with all of the new content written by urologists for urologists. We also started cross-pollinating (I’ll use one of my favorite words from my time at the American Society of Plant Biologists!) our journal content in AUANews. For instance, we have what we call Journal of Urology Insights and Urology Practice Insights, which are one-page insights into journal articles.

In all that, our printing costs were going through the roof, so we moved to adding an additional AUANews issue per month — one available in print and one online only. We also launched a new digital ecosystem in December of 2022, located at www.auanews.net, because, before that, AUANews was only available online in PDFs and a flip book. Now, all AUANews content ends up on that site, and it’s easily searchable, etc.

What we’ve seen from these initiatives is we’re not only bolstering our publications, but we’re also bolstering other revenue-generating efforts across the AUA in large part because we’re getting great new interest from advertisers and sponsors. What does that look like? Our Kantar scores for online and print, especially, are through the roof, and our readership now well exceeds the competition.

With the new online platform, we plan to start offering AUANews-branded podcasts. For instance, we have this one product we’re working on called Section Selection, where we’ll go to regional AUA meetings and create podcasts with key opinion leaders so that our global membership can have an idea of what’s happening at those geographically based urological meetings. We have a lot of interest from industry sponsors for that, like device and pharma companies.

We’re also working with Cadmore Media to have live hybrid and recorded sponsored webinars embedded in AUA News, and we’ve already had success selling those products. They also offer branding opportunities on event emails, the registration page, and within the Cadmore software with analytics, so sponsors can understand who’s coming to the site and engaging. And we can keep the webinars on the site as evergreen products. So that’s been another exciting opportunity for us.

Another area of diversification we’ve been focusing on that I have to say is important to me for the future of our world is DEI efforts. In 2021, we started doing an AUANews focus issue called “Celebrating Diversity with the AUA,” which has seen exponential growth year over year. We also have an AUANews-branded podcast around diversity called “Voices of Urology,” and we’re planning to have DEI webinar opportunities moving forward.

At the AUA, we do something called Industry Days twice a year, where we have partners meet with all of our departments so we can let them know what’s going on in our world and vice versa. Something gratifying and exciting we’ve learned in those conversations is that DEI is important to our industry partners and an area they’re very interested in sponsoring.

So basically, we’re using that AUANews platform to generate new revenue for the AUA and promote things that we know are revenue producers. Of course, we’re cross-promoting all of our publications and also our education products, our guidelines, our annual meeting, our office of research, all of the grant opportunities, and our Urology Care Foundation. So with this AUANews ecosystem, we’re looking at how we can holistically include everything under our AUA umbrella and connect the dots. And we have new ideas about it every day.

I think there are a lot of revenue-generation opportunities for publishers via ads and sponsorships if they focus on repurposing and cross-promoting content across journals and different supplementary channels, like what we’re doing with AUANews.

Combining OA and sponsorship opportunities:

Something I hear over and over again is physicians are busy saving lives, and with all of the content out there now they don’t have time to sit in an easy chair and read through every single journal there is like they could in the print world. They need content served up to them that’s readable on their phone and pertains to their specialty areas. And it’s easier to do that if all the content is open access.

I say this all the time for so many different reasons, the dusty print journal days are done. Today we have to focus on connecting people with relevant curated content. I know, as a consumer, that’s what I want too. In the OA future, what will make publishers stand out is knowing how to curate content and bring it to the right readers.

I think scholarly publishing folks at different organizations can also partner to put topical content hubs and resources together. For example, if it’s Kidney Month, we might be able to partner with the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Society of Nephrology and others publishing related research to create unique curated content experiences with new sponsorship opportunities.

Thanks again to Jennifer Regala for taking the time for this interview!

Click here to check out the next post in the series — a compilation of insights from leaders at university presses and scholarly societies publishing research across disciplines.

Tales from the Trenches