Tuesday 17 March 2015

BMJ's acquisition of the British Veterinary Association Journals

Janet O'Flaherty from the BMJ
In a session designed to consider divestment as a strategy, Janet O'Flaherty, Publisher at BMJ, outlined how the British Veterinary Society chose to work with BMJ as their preferred partner and how the journals have fared in the past six years.

The BVA has been publishing in house since 1888. they were very traditional and conservative, had seen spiralling costs with declining revenues and lost contract publishing business over several years. There was a technology deficit and were struggling to keep up to date. They chose the BMJ due to a good natural fit: both are the 'go-to' Associations for their professions.

BMJ inherited a weekly magazine, large backlog of content and lots of historical legacy systems. First of all, they moved the staff across to the BMJ, built a new jobs site, reviewed roles and processes, integrated workflows and upgraded hardware. It was important to reassure the staff that they were investing for the future.

They moved print production to BMJ suppliers and renegotiated supplier contract for hosting. They introduced right-priced subscriptions and tweaked the business model. They didn't have any vets working on the editorial board so they advertised for a Veterinary Editor-in-Chief. They also set up customer focus groups. They refreshed cover and page layout, bearing in mind the conservative nature of the audience.

Other editorial developments included:

  • Appointed veterinary research editor and clinical editor
  • Refreshed international advisory board to improve reach
  • Improved workflows and author services - online first
  • Research published as one page summary in print for practitioners
  • Editorial to accompany original articles
  • OA hybrid option
  • Boosted social media.

There is a successful and ongoing relationship with the BVA which is profitable for both parties. Online usage has increased 60% from 2011 to 2014. They have had positive feedback from readership surveys. They've looked at new revenue streams such as supplements, round tables, webinars. The jobs site has changed and even more successful with revenue growing. Editorial turnaround times now 12 days from receipt to acceptance. They have a stable editorial team and have launched two new journals.

And the lessons learned? These include:

  • Timing to avoid disrupting weekly schedule
  • Poor inherited data especially for subscribers (importance of TRANSFER)
  • Staff getting used to BMJ (letting go of some responsibilities)
  • Transition to new systems and processes
  • Online hosting transfer slow
  • Recruiting first Veterinary Editor-in-Chief
  • Communications are key

Janet O'Flaherty spoke at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

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