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.