Monday 24 December 2012

Is the journal brand dead? Marketing in an open access world

Tim Redding, Nature Publishing, talks journal brands
In November, ALPSP held one of our most successful seminars in 2012 - Beyond the Rhetoric: New opportunities in open access. Tim Redding, Head of Marketing for BioPharma, Life and Physical Sciences at Nature Publishing provided some insights into branding.

He articulated access to research is universal  and it is the top tier journals with large circulations that have lost out. With all journals, whatever their tier, you now have to woo authors. The circulation argument no longer works. There are a number of factors that need to be taken care of when considering your organisation or journal brand.

Article level metrics are vital. Ideally you will have a metrics button on each article. You need to focus on service: from time to publication through to ease of submission and discoverability. Reviewers and editorial boards are advocates for the journal. They are just as key as authors, so treat them accordingly. Happy reviewers are needed for rapid publication and to meet authors' service level expectations. Deal with them fairly and efficiently and consider recognition of their contribution. Frontiers puts reviewer names on papers giving more credit to what the reviewers are contributing to the scientific process. Common courtesy doesn't go amiss: send thank you letters and acknowledgements.

Redding also outlined the difficulties with hybrid titles. You have to consider transparency of amount of content that is paid for and ensure you have fair pricing. On the flip side, you need to be clear about cost per download or cost per local citation. Ensure your business model is more fluid than before and consultation and transparency with libraries is paramount.

There are particular challenges with visibility. How can you get papers seen in mega journals? How do you ensure standout and how do authors reach outside their niche? Papers are seen if there is a network for them, regardless of how interesting or quirky they are.

Tools to use for visibility should include email. It is still powerful, if used wisely. Content marketing is good for authors and helps define the journal. Give authors tools to help themselves e.g. sharing boxes and social tools. Empower the author to promote their paper. Give them an email template and make it easy for them to share.

Unsurprisingly, Redding is a big advocate of using social media.  They have the following number of accounts for science engagement at Nature:

  • 40 Twitter
  • 24 Facebook
  • 8 blogs
  • 6 MySpace
  • 8 LinkedIn

Social media provides tools for visibility. They received 120,000 'Likes' on Facebook for As a network, Facebook can be the second largest referrer after Google. While it is a forum for engagement and comment, you need to keep an eye on it and actally engage, so don't just pop it up there and forget about it.

Social media works best when marketing (key messages, sales) and editorial (credibility) work together. It allows you to gain feedback and insight into your authors and readers. While audience can be vocal, you can turn this to your advantage by embracing it, and not ignoring it. With Twitter, autofeeds work, but nothing compares to editorial engagement.

Infographics: here's one he prepared earlier
But what kind of content works best? Pictures and video can help you and increase interaction on Facebook. This type of content encourages sharing which can go viral. Infographics can help to explain complex information and can help your content standout from the clutter. Good content can act as a talking point.

Paid search is worth considering as it is useful to grow audience quickly and cost effectively - particularly before indexing. Facebook drives page likes, Google AdWords is good for directing traffic and StumbleUpon is less than $0.10 per click. Also consider RedditDigg and LinkedIn.

Tracking can be difficult as there is no direct correlation, unlike subscriptions. But by tracking submission rate against marketing campaigns, you can show trends, albeit with a time lag. A guide to authors page views is also a good indicator of interest.

All these techniques form part of a long game. Build your brand and build your registrations; build web traffic and submissions will come. Use author marketing to full effect: survey all authors to find out why they submitted to your journal. This will not only help you define your brand, but will also provide good insight into your service levels as they are part of the author/academic/research community's most critical touch point with your brand.

Walter Landor, the father of modern branding, stated that brand is not just a name and logo, it has evolved. It is not just company telling you what the product is. Customers define brand just as much as company. Is the journal brand dead? Are journal brands still relevant? Why don't researchers just publish on WordPress? Redding believes it is about trust, reach and discoverability:

  • brands give trust and authority and quickly allow you to identify content you need
  • brands help authors ensure that the audience reading their research is the right one and valued
  • brands give papers Google juice and discoverability.

He closed by saying in an online open access world, brands are still critical and far from dead. Long live the journal brand.


  1. People still have that psychological tendency to be reading further if they see a lot of image on a page. I guess that's why marketers tend to focus on optimizing images a lot.

  2. Hi Suzanne,
    I loved reading this piece! Well written! :)

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