Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The truth about content marketing: in conversation with IOP Publishing's Jo Allen and Karen Watts

H92: the place to be
Picture the scene. We're at the ALPSP stand in Hall 4.2 at Frankfurt Book Fair. Plans are being discussed for the forthcoming ALPSP Content Marketing seminar and the ALPSP team have got together with two communications specialists who are getting animated about what content marketing *actually* involves.

We joined in the discussion with Jo Allen (JA) who is Head of Marketing & B2B at IOP Publishing and Karen Watts (KW) IOP’s PR and Communications Manager, and captured some of the highlights of the conversation below:

ALPSP: What does content marketing mean to you?

JA: Using your content to do the work for you. All publishers are sitting on deep seams of great content. Effective content marketing makes use of these gems and does hard work for you.

KW: I think it's about utilising your best assets rather than looking for gimmicks.

JA: We're lucky we've got Physics World, it lends itself beautifully to this arena. To be honest we've been doing content marketing for a while unconsciously, but now it's more deliberate and far more strategic.

KW: Do you mean rolling out into different channels like social media and on the website?

JA: Yes. We now have a much more holistic approach. We focus on the content first and the channel second. Content comes first. It's a similar approach to the one we have with IOP’s design studio. Instead of simply designing a printed piece or an email communication, we consider the content first and make it adaptable to all formats right from the start.

Jo Allen: content marketer extraordinaire
KW: Let's face it, content marketing drives and informs every decision we make in communications now.

JA: True, we'd struggle to make a decision that doesn't relate to it in some way!

ALPSP: What do you think is the most effective piece of content marketing IOP has ever done?

JA: The Physics World 25th anniversary issue back in 2013 was incredibly effective. We produced a special issue with lots of special features. Do you remember the 25 top list? It had five top people to watch, five best discoveries, five puzzles GCHQ created…..  that really helped the comms team with newsworthy content. It made a big splash then, and we're still using it nearly a year later.

KW: It was hugely successful.  Because a key strength of Physics World is high quality reviews of physics news, it is not always easy to pitch the content as newsworthy on its own. It was a great opportunity to showcase the editorial quality of the magazine in a different format.

JA: And we've got good mileage from it. The new digital magazine app has just launched using the 25th issue as a free download to showcase the fantastic design and functionality. We're still using it as a recruitment tool for membership for the digital only member category.

KW: On the journals side, I think the video abstracts are one of our most effective pieces of content: the stats speak for themselves. Papers with a video abstract are downloaded three times more than those without. Press releasing articles is enormously important too. A press released article will see downloads for it jump from an average of 40 to around 7,000. That's a fairly impressive rise.

Karen Watts: an Oscars-free zone
JA: Agreed.  Mind you, content marketing can go badly wrong.

KW: Oh yes, I cringe when I see people using gimmicks instead of thinking about the actual content and audience. The worst is when you see someone try to put across a personality that just isn't them. Tone of voice is crucial!

JA: Talking of personality, something we have to remember is that while our authors are physics experts, they are also human beings!

KW: Exactly, our authors and readers aren’t just an audience segment or a specialist field. They have the desire to share and connect with other people just like everyone else. When you try and be something you're not, you're doomed. It's about authenticity and relevance.

JA: True. But when you think about tweaking tone of voice and changing marketing approaches, it’s crucial to bring along colleagues. Changes in marketing strategy can be scary so we need to support them along the way...

KW: You know my pet hate? Trying to be 'current' and shoehorning celebrity news into your channels. Don't comment on the Oscars unless it's related to your topic!

And with that, the discussion concluded and normal Frankfurt Buchmesse business resumed.

Karen Watts will be presenting a case study at the forthcoming ALPSP seminar Content Marketing - using your publishing assets? on how IOP’s content marketing strategy is changing lives, one Ferrari at a time!

Register for Content Marketing - using your publishing assets?  on Wednesday 12 November 2015 in London.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Mind the (data) gap… Learned Publishing special issue

Fiona Murphy (centre) talks Data at the ALPSP conference
For anyone who has ever travelled on the London Underground and endured endless repeats of ‘Mind the gap’, this special issue of Learned Publishing is your equivalent warning on data.

As funders make open data a policy stipulation, publishers must prepare for these requirements. In fact publishers are well placed to support open data, and society publishers are uniquely well placed to be a part of the solution: they are at the heart of their community and understand their needs.

But what do you do next? How can you mind your data gap and understand what it means for your organization and its community?

In this special online-only issue of Learned Publishing, the focus is purely on data. Guest edited by Alice Meadows, Director of Communications at Wiley and Fiona Murphy, STM Publisher, it is published open access with the support of Wiley.

We caught up with Alice and Fiona (who was just back from last month's European Research Council Workshop on Research Data Management and Sharing in Brussels), to talk data deluge and why now for this special issue.

So why focus on data now?

Alice: The OSTP memo from 2013 and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research Data Pilot are two examples of funders driving open data. Meanwhile, more data than ever are being collected. Technology is improving our ability to analyse and share them, but there are still huge barriers to that being done effectively; you’d be surprised how much data collection is still manual.

Fiona: And we still lack globally standard ways of collecting, managing, sharing, and storing data which creates a whole new set of challenges when the ultimate aim is to enable re-use and interoperability. Susan Reilly's paper provides a librarian's perspective of some of these issues, while Varsha Khodiya and her F1000 colleagues tackle data sharing, citation, and more.

What can publishers to do help?

Alice: If publishers and societies aren't careful, they will once again be playing catch-up with the funders on a growing requirement in their research communities. This is a golden opportunity to lead from the front and help researchers. In the words of Mark Hahnel in this interview on the Wiley Exchanges blog, open data can help “Opening up research data has the potential to both save lives (say with medical advances) and to enhance them with socio-economic progress.” That’s a pretty compelling argument. And societies and society publishers have a particular part to play here, as demonstrated in the paper by Hazel Norman of the British Ecological Society. 

Fiona: That’s not to say that publishers aren't already working on opening up data. My paper Data and Scholarly Publishing: the transforming landscape sets the scene and provides an overview of how publishers are responding to date.

ALPSP: What is the most important theme to emerge from the issue?

Fiona: Without a doubt, it’s the importance of collaboration. Cooperation between stakeholders is crucial to successfully opening up data. Andrew Treloar reflects on the work of the Research Data Alliance in his paper. Having recently returned from a European Research Council workshop attended by a whole cross-section of stakeholders, I can only agree that these types of coordinated action are the best way forward.

Alice: Similarly, Sarah Callaghan's paper on preserving the integrity of the scientific record shows how the scholarly community is collaborating to solve issues around data citation and linking. But if they’re not familiar with recent developments or with networks like RDA, I’d urge readers to access the articles, share with colleagues and talk through what it means for their organization. This special issue is a snapshot of views from right now - things are likely to change rapidly. We’d love to know what ALPSP members think and if they have positive examples and experiences they can share.

Learned Publishing special data issue is available now online open access on the Learned Publishing site.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Does innovation help smaller publishers?

These are exciting times in scholarly publishing, as ALPSP 2014 so amply demonstrated. But is technical innovation leaving the smaller publisher trailing behind better-resourced and larger competitors and the big technology companies? It ain’t necessarily so…

The early ‘electronic’ decades were characterized by high entry costs, modest technical skill levels, uncertainties and risk aversion. Only the larger publishers would venture to take the first cautious steps. Now the pace of technical change is almost dizzying, innovation is rampant, entry costs have fallen, skill levels are higher and, despite some apprehension, even small publishers are more comfortable with taking risks.

The fundamental elements of scholarly publishing haven’t changed that much. Authors still want to publish in the ‘best’ journals representing their community, with fast, reliable and responsive peer review. Libraries and readers still want affordability, timeliness, responsiveness to their needs. Price is important but quality and impact weigh heavily. None of these criteria are barriers to the smaller scholarly publisher.

Despite the rapidity of change, technical innovation has lowered the entry barriers, making it easier and less risky for smaller publishers and start-ups to provide new products and services: think of Peerage of Science for peer review, figshare for managing and sharing research output, DeepDyve for low-cost full-text preview, PACKT using Google to monitor technology trends and turning them into publishing opportunities, and many more initiatives reported at ALPSP 2014. Vast collaborative effort is going into standardization, data structuring, interoperability to level the playing field and make it easier for players to concentrate on their own USPs. A whole industry of service providers and outsourcers ensure that small scale is not an obstacle: intermediaries, hosts, discovery services, technology partners, CCC, CrossRef, COUNTER and more.

With all this help, small operators have the additional advantage that they can be more nimble and exploit opportunities more quickly than larger organizations. The proviso is that they understand their role, that they stay in close touch and work with their chosen academic communities, respond to their needs and constantly reinvent themselves (Coco Chanel: “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different”). Even the big beasts in the field can be helpful: Google does offer well-used, free discovery services and is responsive to complaints about the negative impact of search algorithm changes. There were calls for more lobbying of services like Google, but the question of their market dominance is perhaps best left to the competition authorities.

‘Bells and whistles’ was the somewhat pejorative term used for service characteristics that are nice to have but miss what is really important to authors. For example publishers and librarians care deeply about version control, but researchers don’t. There are a fair number of ‘predatory’ journals that offer little or no peer review even though the research community still values it highly. Impact factors are important for publishers but researchers, particularly younger ones, care more about the societal impact of their work, also reflected in the changing criteria of the Research Excellence Framework. Small publishers need to have these conversations with the research community and understand what matters to them.

It is to the credit of ALPSP that it has always been aware of the special concerns of niche publishers. It has done its best to foster skill building, provide networking opportunities, encourage standards and service provision and bring the different parts of the scholarly publishing universe together. No wonder its international conferences have been so successful!

Kurt Paulus

Friday, 26 September 2014

The data deluge is upon us… are you ready?

Today sees the online publication (under an open access model) of our special data issue of Learned Publishing.

Produced with the support of Wiley, this collection of papers represents a snapshot of current thinking about research data from a variety of perspectives. It is guest edited by Alice Meadows, Director of Communications at Wiley and Fiona Murphy, their STM Publisher.

This special issue is launched at the end of a week where Wiley Exchanges published some fascinating posts on different aspects of data to coincide with the Research Data Alliance annual conference in Amsterdam.

Liz Ferguson, Publishing Solutions Director at Wiley hit the nail on the head with her observation “Acknowledging the significance of data in scholarly communication is one thing, but knowing what to do about it is another” in her piece Everybody Loves Data.

Jennifer Beal, Events & Ambassador Manager at Wiley observed “Ah Big Data, how things have changed!” in her write up of the Who’s Afraid of Big Data session from the ALPSP conference.

“Do you want to use my environmental data, or I yours? The question pulls in many conflicting directions.” Mike Kirkby, Emeritus at Leeds University reflected on the many questions with complex answers that the use and storage of data presents in  More data, more questions?

Fiona Murphy interviewed Mark Hahnel, Founder of figshare who believes that “Opening up research data has the potential to both save lives (say with medical advances) and to enhance them with socio-economic progress. It’s a space where humans and computers can work symbiotically, and where industry can also benefit.” He goes on to share his thoughts on the practicalities of opening data, blockages in the system and the potential for open science.

As more and more colleagues across the scholarly publishing community engage with open data, we hope this special issue will help them along the way.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

What societies need to know about Creative Commons (CC) Licensing - free webinar

Want to know what a CC license is and what all the different types mean?
Which CC license is best for your journal’s authors and the future of your journal(s)?

What societies need to know about Creative Commons (CC) licensing
Tuesday, September 30th, 8-9am PDT/11am-12pm EDT/4-5pm BST

With new mandates being announced by funders globally for Open Access archiving of their funded research, societies need to understand what the different CC article licensing options mean, both for their journals’ and their members’ needs.  This webinar will provide society executives with an overview of what they need to know about CC licences. Do you know your CC BY from your CC BY-NC-ND?  What are the pros and cons of different CC licenses for society journals? What options should you give your authors?

With speakers from Creative Commons, Copyright Clearance Centre and Wiley.

To register your place, visit http://goto.copyright.com/LP=981

This webinar is organised by Wiley in conjunction with the Copyright Clearance Center

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Big data: mining or minefield? Kurt Paulus reflects...

Who's Afraid of Big Data? Not this panel...
"Data are the stuff of research: collection, manipulation, analysis, more data… They are also the stuff of contemporary life: surveillance data, customer data, medical data… Some are defined and manageable: a researcher’s base collection from which the paper draws conclusions. Some are big: police data, NHS data, GCHQ data, accumulated published data in particular fields. Two Plenaries and several other papers at ALPSP 2014 addressed the issues, options, opportunities and some threats around them.

There have long been calls for authors’ underlying research data to be made accessible, so as to substantiate research conclusions, suggest further work and so on. The main Plenaries concerned themselves with Big Data, usually unstructured sets of elements of unprecedented scale and scope, such as the whole of Wikipedia, accumulated Google searches, the biomedical literature, the visible galaxies in the universe. The challenge of ‘mining’ these datasets is to bring structure to them so that new insights emerge beyond those arising from limited or sampled data. This requires automation, big computing resources and appropriate but speeded-up human intervention and sometimes crowd sourcing.

Gemma Hersh from Elsevier on TDM
Text and data mining has some kinship with information discovery where usually structured datasets are queried, but goes well beyond it by seeking to add structure to very large sets of data where there is no or little structure, so that information can be clustered, trends identified and concepts linked together to lead to new hypotheses. The intelligence services provide a prime, albeit hidden example. So does the functional characterization of proteins, the mining of the UK Biobank for trends and new insights or the crowd-sourced classification of galaxy types to test cosmological theories.

Inevitably there are barriers and issues. The data themselves are often inadequate; for example not all drug trials are published and negative or non-results are frequently excluded from papers. Research data are not always structured and standardized and authors are often untutored in databases and ontologies. The default policy, it was recommended, should be openness in the availability of authors’ published and underlying data, standardized with full metadata and unique identifiers, to make data usable and mitigate the need for sophisticated mining.

CrossRef's Rachael Lammey
Because of copyright and licensing, not all data are easily accessed for retrieval and mining. Increasingly licensing for ‘non-commercial purposes’ is permitted but exactly what is non-commercial is ill-defined, particularly in pharmaceuticals. Organizations like CrossRef, CCC, PLS and others are beginning to offer services that support the textual, licensing and royalty gathering processes for both research and commercial data mining.

Rejecting the name tag Cassandra, Paul Uhlir of the National Academies urged a note of caution. Big Data is changing the public and academic landscape, harbouring threats of disintermediation, complexity, luddism and inequality and exposing weaknesses in reproducibility, scientific method, data policy, metrics and human resources, amongst others.

Paul F. Uhlir urges caution

Judging by the remainder of these sessions and the audience reaction, excitement was more noticeable than apprehension.

ALPSP of course is on the ball and has just issued a Member Briefing on Text and Data Mining (member login required) and will publish a special online-only issue of Learned Publishing before the end of this month."

Kurt Paulus

Friday, 19 September 2014

Open Access rules OK – almost? Kurt Paulus reflects one week on from the ALPSP International Conference

Toby Green (centre) asks 'Why are we still not there?'
“Twenty years since Harnad, ten years since Budapest, but why are we still not there?” asked Toby Green in the second Plenary at ALPSP 2014. Well, the venerable Royal Society has launched its first OA journal, Open Biology, and has survived the experience. They are only one of many scholarly publishers: Phil Hurst of the RS claimed some 50% of learned societies are planning OA journals. Jackie Jones from Wiley gave structured advice on how and when to ‘flip’ the revenue model from subscription to Gold OA. So where are we?

It seems that much of the hesitancy surrounding this topic is fading away and we are now looking at how rather than whether to do it. Practical questions come to the fore: how long do we give authors APC waivers before they become fully liable (1-2 years), and what groups are entitled to more permanent waivers. The key customers continue to be the authors, but so too are funding bodies who underwrite APCs, and institutions who are targets for membership schemes. More internal customer service silos must disappear as the whole workflow is rethought.

If everything is rosy in the garden, why did Open Access pop up in almost every session? Well, we are still in the transitional stage between Hybrid, Green and Gold, and progress towards a more common approach is still patchy. The mandating issues are very much on the table, with only the UK and USA relatively self-assured. In the EU the new Commission will need time to settle in, and mandating policy may not be its first priority. Thinking about OA in Australia and New Zealand is positive, as it is in China – where scientific research output is blossoming – while developments in South America, perceived as a significant future market, are less coherent.

Hybrid, Green or Gold? You decide.
Behind the front line of even small publishers taking the plunge, there are other developments that shine a light on the changing landscape. Ottawa University Press is in partnership with the university library which financially supports some OA book titles. OECD, amongst others, uses the 'freemium' model, where read-only is free but download, print and other services are paid for, and it claims it works. OA repositories are adding to the exposure of published works, and bring PhD theses and research reports to readers’ attention. Scholarly publishing in libraries is growing the younger author pool, a trend rather more prominent in the USA than the UK.

Simon Ross (left) presents Fred with his Award
Many details remain to be chewed over: Should APCs apply only to published papers when rejected papers also incur a high cost? ‘Value for money’ becomes more of an issue now that the cost of publishing is out in the open. It is in the joint interests of libraries and publishers to support each other; what’s the best way to maximize exposure and discovery of the work? Almost the last comment of the last Plenary was that most if not all new journal launches will be Open Access; another example of the glass half full.

There was genuine delight when Fred Dylla, CEO of AIP and a driver of clear thinking about OA policies was announced as the winner of this year’s ALPSP Award for Contribution to Scholarly Publishing.

Kurt Paulus