How 7 Academic Publishers are Amplifying their Brands
Techniques used by leading publishers to attract researchers, readers, and increase outreach
In just a quarter of a century, the move from print to digital has introduced a new set of challenges as well as opportunities for scholarly publishers. Stricter library budgets, increased control by regulatory agencies, the challenge of reaching new readers while also racing against competition to maintain clientele, are accompanied by more desirable effects like lowered publication costs, the ability to grow readership, and innovate abundantly by moving beyond publishing and expand into related areas for growth.
Today, the ultimate goal for any academic publisher is to reach out to the widest possible audience online to boost views, readership, citations, and consequently, to increase the impact factor of their journal. With digital marketing, brands are able to increase their outreach by leveraging great content and providing rich user experiences.
Most companies employ a specialized team of content marketers to curate content focused on ‘thought leadership’, which go beyond product pitches about the brand itself. Academic publications are natural sources of content – including, but not limited to, their oeuvre of research publications that most readers are easily attracted to. Yet, it is critical to devise a strategy that helps publishers use this to their advantage to build a large online community and emerge as an influential entity, which is bigger than just a “PDF download store”.1
To examine how publishers can maintain interest and attention of users, attract and engage new customers and readers, and in the process, emerge as a trusted source of knowledge, we have shared our observations of seven academic publishers, highlighting the most interesting tools and methods used by them to successfully create an online presence.
Annual Reviews (AR)
As the volume of research published is only steadily growing every year, Annual Reviews, a non-profit publisher attempts to synthesize knowledge in several research domains to tackle this information overload, with review articles written by leading scholars from AR’s 50 journals.
The information and themes in these journals serve as springboards for expertly curated stories in AR’s digital publication, Knowable Magazine. It houses a wide range of content, including special reports and in-depth features about interesting topics like work-life, the art of persuasion, and biology. The formats are varied – detailed videos, Q&A segments, infographics, explainer articles, updates and even comic strips! These different content formats make important developments in any given field of study easily accessible, interesting to read and absorb, and help stimulate interesting discussions.
As advocates for information literacy, Annual Reviews also regards library publishers as catalysts of this movement and are involved in a project that articulates the role of librarians in assessing and sifting relevant digital information.
This campaign also has a landing page of its own showcasing not just AR’s vision of librarians leading positive change in the publishing industry, but also a range of resources including whitepapers, reviews, surveys, guides, books, infographics, and videos. Another notable feature of Annual Review’s content marketing efforts is email preference centre which helps them deliver highly personalized emails and e-newsletters, curated to match the users’ tastes and preferences.
One of the world’s largest publishers of open access journals, Hindawi Publishing comprises of more than 230 journals across all core scientific disciplines. With an elegant and intuitive website that makes navigation simple, this publisher is already on top of their game.
In addition, actionable content, separate paths for different prospects—authors, and publishing partners, consistent colour schemes, and important information related to journals in every discipline, like acceptance rates and impact factor, altogether contribute to create a great user experience.
Similarly, their blogging site contains very engaging articles and blog posts and is categorized into open science, announcements, science communication and journal news for easy navigation. The blog also showcases opinion pieces, reviews, updates, and interviews with researchers and entities from their collaborative partners like the preprint publisher, ChemRxiv. Yet another notable feature in their blog is the monthly Editor Spotlight Series where a specific journal editor shares insights and discusses trends within their specialist fields of academia.
What can a 350+ year old publisher with a Humanities and Social Sciences focus possibly do to level up their online content strategy? Founded in 1683, Brill Publishing is a great example of a publishing house that is exploring novel marketing techniques with the help of Impact Science “to connect with new audiences and geographies in the most relevant and contextual way possible.”2
To promote their flagship product, Linguistic Bibliography Online, Brill Publishing collaborated with our team of designers, writers, and science communicators to create an animated explainer video that addresses the end users’ pain points, and was translated in five languages to expand outreach. A shorter 40 second teaser video was also created to summarize and attract funders and lay persons, in addition to static and interactive infographics that were repurposed as hardcopy handouts at events as well as hosted on Brill Publishing’s website homepage.
This campaign was instrumental in attracting new traffic to the site, and generating leads and inquiries into other products.
Brill Publishing’s infographic on Linguistic Bibliography Online
Brill Publishing also uses text and audio formats on their blog #HumanitiesMatter to generate interest about key topics in humanities through opinion pieces, video summaries, interviews, podcasts, and more.
Another interesting source for Brill Publishing’s content marketing efforts is their extensive use of YouTube not just to promote their special programmes and activities—for instance, this video talks about their open access process—but also to deliver educational video content across domains like International Relations, Linguistics, and History neatly segregated in the form video playlists.
A subsidiary of the Institute of Physics, IOP Publishing is the first physics publisher to launch a journal on the internet in 1994. In order to create and disseminate rich content in traditional print as well as online formats, IOP Publishing’s extensive portfolio to communicate world-class research, includes Physics World, a monthly digital and print magazine that received a special mention at the 2019 Folio: Eddie and Ozzie Awards for its website content and design.3
Physics World, IOP Publishing’s monthly magazine in print and digital formats
In 2013, considering the growing demand for ebooks in Physics, IOP Publishing launched a new e-book programme at the Frankfurt Book Fair that focused on early career researchers who would like to approach a research field more broadly and across disciplines. With DOIs for every chapter, IOP Publishing ensures that their ebooks are searchable along with journal content on IOP Science. Born digital, their e-books are converted to print later on demand. Yet another innovative approach adopted by IOP Publishing recently is their response to the schools shutting down due to the global pandemic.
Their Physics Education archive includes space for “Physics Education at home” where they share peer-reviewed articles that can be used by teachers and students (14 – 16 years olds) to conduct easy DIY Physics activities and experiments at home.
The world’s leading publisher on science and health research, Elsevier delivers information and innovative tools for researchers, educators, and scholarly communities worldwide. With 873k+ followers on Twitter, 322k+ on LinkedIn, and 300k+ people following them on Facebook, Elsevier was already developing some of the largest networks on social media that few publishers are able to build and maintain.
Elsevier was also able to identify that while most academics are active on social networking sites, video is one of the most popular content formats which drives high engagement. But videos can be time-consuming and difficult to create.
When Elsevier shared this challenge with us, Impact Science helped them create videos which summarized longform content within a shorter time frame, along with design consistency to increase overall brand recall for the publisher.
The impact: conversions and new leads, improved sales, click through rate on Twitter increased 4 times the usual rate, and better visibility.
For the journal Cell Press, Elsevier released Figure360 videos that help readers quickly grasp the key takeaways of a scientific research paper within minutes by breaking down a figure using animation and narration. Another journal, Materials Today, also provides a “comprehensive coverage” on material sciences, from new developments to highly specialized topics using articles, announcement posts, webinars, journal insights, and podcasts.4
A division of Springer Nature Publishing House, Nature Research or Nature Publishing Group publishes a range of academic journals, magazines, and online databases in science and medicine. Widely known for its flagship publication Nature, this publishing group has 9 million monthly readers who engage with the commentary, analysis, books, videos, and podcasts on their website.
To boost scientific curiosity and learning especially among students, Nature Research launched Scitable, a collaborative learning space for science students, popular across Ivy League colleges from the world, and used by educators to customize learning materials, create online classrooms, network, and share content with colleagues. Similarly, Nature Careers is another site that provides the scholarly community, and specifically early career researchers and students with scientific career news, advice, tools and information about the latest job openings in academia.
A publishing house with a 183-year old legacy, Wolters Kluwer serves customers in over 180 countries, helping them overcome the challenges of an ever-changing world by providing specialized service and software solutions in legal, business, healthcare and related industries.
Wolters Kluwer has been actively using visual formats for information dissemination like infographics on their site and blog to drive traffic to their website. They’ve used a mix of free tools and templates, as well as the expertise of SEO professionals to create these infographics, the most popular of which is on Lippincott NursingCenter.com: The Subtle Signs of Sepsis. Not only did it cover a hot topic in medical health (at the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared sepsis as a medical emergency), but it also helped simplify a complex topic that people were curious to learn more about, and also used this space to promote their collection of sepsis treatment related articles.
A snapshot of a popular infographic by Wolters Kluwer
In addition to their blog and the use of visual infographics to promote their products, Wolters Kluwer also conducts a number of events, conferences, and webinars to educate researchers about publication practices and the roles of publishers, journals, societies, and authors in the entire cycle of research dissemination and discoverability.5
These academic publishers are using innovative new digital strategies that appeal to the modern reader in order to broaden their outreach. Various content formats like infographics, video summaries, email newsletters, podcasts, live sessions are shared across websites, online magazines, social media, and specialized campaign sites that help boost site traffic and brand visibility, capture the attention of new readers and subscribers, maintain a community of prospects built over the years, and attract partnerships and author submissions.
As an academic publisher, which are some of the content marketing techniques mentioned above that you will/have been using to fulfil your unique outreach and engagement goals? Let us know in the comments below, or visit https://www.impact.science/publishers-societies/ to know how we, at Impact Science, combine our understanding and love for research, with our expert knowledge of media formats and platforms to deliver comprehensive marketing support for your academic publishing house’s unique research communication needs.
You can also write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and our PhD consultants will connect with you!