Researcher EngagementSocial Media Outreach

Creating Customized Content Packages: Tips for Societies and Publishers

Research societies play many critical roles in research as advocates for researchers, as resources for the latest findings and standards, and as organizers of conferences and public health programs. However, many societies have felt funding pressures recently. Research societies have traditionally relied on three main revenue streams: journals and publications, conferences, and membership dues. Conferences received a severe hit in 2020 and 2021, due to pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions. With the growing popularity of open access, journal revenue is likely to witness fluctuations in the near future, especially for subscription-based journals. Further, in recent years, society membership has been continuously contracting. As the pool of member dues becomes smaller, it becomes necessary to find ways to both reverse these trends and to diversify revenue streams so that societies can continue their vital work.

Meanwhile, publishers have felt the squeeze from changing habits of media consumption and an increasingly competitive landscape.

To better engage with members and prospective members, and to gain new, diverse revenue streams, many societies and publishers have turned to customized content packages, such as AGA Clinician’s Companion or ASM’s Microcosm. In these content packages, researchers are offered curated information from existing publications and industry news. This approach allows societies to repurpose information into a useful magazine-like format for busy researchers, while being affordable to produce.

See also: Maximizing Member Uptake of Your Society Offerings: A Four-Step Approach

However, setting up a new customized content package can be daunting, and considering the increasingly crowded online publication landscape, one must consider potential pitfalls that come with trying to create a customized content package that stands out from the crowd. Here, we would like to share some tips on how to create a content package that can pull in new members and engage with your existing membership.

Know the audience, their needs, and their habits

This is by far the most crucial tip, as customizing to an audience necessarily means that you should know what that audience is.

There have never been more researchers in the world than there are now. However, researchers are not monolithic. The target audience is likely to belong to many demographics in terms of age, nationality, and career stage, and each of these segments will tend towards certain habits of consumption. For example, young people are more likely to use their smartphone as their primary media consumption device, so any society seeking to increase their audience of young and early-career researchers will need to create a smartphone-focused experience.

Conducting focus group discussions and analyzing website traffic and membership lists can allow you to determine audience segments and serve as a crucial resource for guiding audience-focused strategies to increase membership within any segment.

Go where your audience already is

Social media is hugely popular around the world, but certain demographics will favor different locations. For example, while Facebook may be hugely popular, you would have trouble using it to reach an audience of young Chinese researchers, who will be far more likely to use Sina Weibo in place of Twitter and Facebook, and WeChat in place of WhatsApp or LINE. Fortunately, it is easy to discover the most commonly used channels for audience segments, not only through directly asking your audience, but also by researching the outlets most commonly used by researchers in a given country.

Keep topics relevant

Considering the audience includes not just the choosing the right channels to disseminate, but also the content. We all ignore information we have no interest in, so making sure it is relevant and interesting is vital. For instance, an early career researcher is more likely to be interested in job opportunities and novel trends in research. In comparison, an established professor in charge of their own lab will more likely want to know about new international conferences and novel opportunities for publishing for their research area.

Similarly, researchers from various regions will find different topics relevant. For instance, a medical society with many members from high-income countries will have more interest in expensive, cutting-edge medical technology. Meanwhile, those from less-developed regions will have fewer opportunities to use such technology, instead preferring information that they can make use of with scant resources, such as advances in repurposed drugs.

Harness new content formats

The traditional journal article remains the main way that researchers engage with new information. However, the Internet has allowed novel content formats to flourish. Besides being fun and attractive, such novel content formats have allowed traditional publishers to reach new audiences who favor multimedia consumption and who feel strapped for time.

These formats include infographics that use visuals to put abstract concepts into an easily understandable form, engaging video summaries, one-page analyses, and podcasts. Using audience analysis, you can carefully select the appropriate format that your audience will find most engaging.

See also: How the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery made it easy for orthopedic surgeons to access and share breakthrough research


A customized content package can offer great opportunities to improve your outreach and diversify income. A content package not only provides new revenue from monthly fees, but also from advertising and sponsorships, much like a traditional magazine. However, a strategic, analytic approach is necessary to make the most of such packages. Knowing your audience is the lynchpin to any new content strategy, so making use of surveys, existing subscriber information, and website analytics will help you realize a content package that wows your audience to draw in more members and engagement.

How are academic societies and publishers leveraging digital and social channels to meet various goals? Learn more in this whitepaper.

David Burbridge

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