How to Increase Journal Readership: The Complete Checklist
Open Access Academic Publishing JATS XML

How to Increase Journal Readership: The Complete Checklist

Shanu K
Shanu K

Increase-journal-readership

You’ve started an online academic journal? Congratulations! But, let me tell you, you’ve got competition. It used to be that launching a new journal was very tough. Now, with open access and online as an accepted and preferred medium of consumption, it has gotten easier. At last count, there were about 33,100 active scholarly peer-reviewed journals published in English (and about 10K more in other languages) and this number is growing every single day (STM Report 2018).

Your biggest challenge as a new journal publisher will be garnering readership, which effectively boils down to doing three things:

  1. Building a great journal
  2. Increasing visibility and proactive marketing

This article is intended to be an exhaustive resource on ways you can increase your journal readership. To that end, I’ve included a long checklist of marketing activities that you can download towards the latter part of this article. But all the marketing in the world will do you no good if some essentials are not in place.


Increasing Journal Readership: The Essentials

Your first order of business after deciding to start a journal is to decide on a niche or a gap that you will fill with your journal. Our last blog post titled “How to Start an Open Access Journal” has great advice on the groundwork that needs to be done to set your journal up for success. Here’s a gist:

The-essentials-to-increase-journal-readership

Good content

High-quality articles will attract readers, citations and, consequently, improve your journal’s impact factor. Having good, if not great, content is a definite prerequisite for building a strong readership. But, this is a catch-22 as many of you might realize. Without sufficient readership, journals find it difficult to attract quality submissions and without good content, readership is impossible to acquire. The blog post referenced above has some ideas on how you can increase the quality and quantity of submissions you receive, but, by and large, this is a challenging topic that needs to be tackled in a post of itself.

Good-content

Website

With most reading happening online, a website is a must for all journals. Here’s the information your website should include:

  1. Name of the journal/s
  2. Members of the editorial board with designations and photographs
  3. Editorial, submission and acceptance guidelines
  4. Links to your latest issues

Open Journal Systems(OJS) is one of the most common platforms to start a website for scholarly journals and provides templates to manage almost all editorial and web publishing needs. Learn more about OJS here (Chapter 1 and Chapter 2)

Open Journal Systems(OJS) is one of the most common platforms to start a website for scholarly journals and provides templates to manage almost all editorial and web publishing needs. Learn more about OJS here (Chapter 1 and Chapter 2)

ISSN and DOI

These are unique identifiers for your journal and articles respectively and are pretty indispensable if you want to encourage citations. The ISSN number can be obtained from an ISSN provider in your country. Once you have an ISSN number, apply for DOI from one of the registration agencies listed on the DOI website.

Once you have the essentials in place — good ethics that encourage quality submissions, quality content that attracts traffic to your website and articles, and ISSN and DOI that enable citations — you are all set to start work on increasing your readership.


Ways to Increase Journal Readership

Ways-to-increase-journal-readership

I: Get Indexed

An index is a collection of journal and/or article details that is accessible, and possibly searchable online. Indexes are an important way for your prospective audience to find your content and you should try to get included in as many as possible to ensure your journal’s success. Indexes can be either commercial or open. Here is the list of prominent indices for your reference.

Commercial Indexes: Commercial indexes are one of the most, if not the most, powerful way to get your journal found by your target readers. Broadly speaking, these are collections of journal metadata. As the name suggests, you need to have a paid subscription (generally bought by libraries for their faculty and students) to access commercial indexes. Commercial indexes can be multidisciplinary such as Scopus or centered on just one domain like EconLit. How to get indexed: Each commercial index generally has its own set of criteria for inclusion and you may find these tough to meet in the first few years of starting your journal. Some of the requirements include high-quality peer-reviewed content, a strong editorial board, and consistent publishing history. See Scopus’ selection criteria to get an idea. Here is what you need to know about Scopus.

Open Databases: These are similar to commercial indexes with the main difference being that they are available for free and accessible by anyone. It is relatively easier to get a new journal and its content indexed by open databases which tend to give more weight to the quality of content and do not consider the absence of long publishing history as a very strong criterion for rejection. There are four types of open databases: Open indexes, open directories, open archive metadata harvesters, and search engines. Getting indexed in search engines and driving visibility and traffic is discussed in a separate point below.

  1. Open Indexes: Open indexes, unlike commercial ones, are publicly funded and freely accessible. PubMed is one example. Some open indexes, such as BioMed Central , only index their own articles. Some open indexes, as explained above, are relatively easier to get indexed in as they may be willing to overlook publishing history if your journal has high-quality content.
  2. Open Directories: These are primarily lists of journals organized by categories. They often don’t have article-level searching capabilities but are very useful nonetheless. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is an example. You’ll need to reach out to the directory’s organizer to get your journal included. The criteria for inclusion is essentially similar to that of commercial and open indexes but tends to be less demanding.
  3. Open Archive Metadata Harvesters: These are online tools that collect freely available metadata and collate it in one searchable database. These are generally operated by universities and libraries, but others like the PKP harvester too exist. Approach libraries directly to request inclusion. For submission to PKP, OJS has a built-in feature.

II: Reach Out

reach-out

Getting recognition for your journal is a lot about how much you are willing to talk about it. One of the ways to get good readership is to build a strong brand for yourself in the domain your journal targets. This will, by default, lend more credibility to your journal. Beyond that, you must start conversations about your journal with organizers of open databases, journal listicles, libraries, prominent researchers and leaders in your domain. Sometimes, a quick email or tweet is all that is needed.

  1. Libraries: Local libraries tend to have their own journal databases or use one of the databases referenced above. Share your journal project with them and they are often very willing to collaborate. But, more importantly, libraries can be a great resource for you to get information on how you can expand your reach. Speak to them about your journal and they will be able to guide you on the best indexes, relevant directories, harvesters and other tools and services to increase your visibility.
  2. Authors: Reach out to good researchers directly and invite them to submit to your journal. This is actually something that predatory journals do as well, but it is a measure that needs to be taken. Try to emphasize your authenticity and have a strong editorial board to foster trust.
  3. Leaders: Contact leaders in your field and invite them to be part of your advisory board. If your journal really addresses a gap in the current publishing landscape for your domain, you may be surprised how many of them say yes.
  4. Social Media: Social media, as the word ‘social’ in its name suggests is about reaching out and connecting. Some publishers have reported good results from social media, particularly Twitter. If you don’t know how it works, read up on some social media marketing resources online. Moz has a good beginner’s guide. We, at SciSpace, may also work up a resource on social media marketing for academic publishers specifically.

III: Academic SEO

Academia-SEO
Photo by Diggity Marketing

Search engines are technically open databases wherein anyone can search for, find and read the articles in your journal. But, unlike the databases explained above where you need to simply email the indexer to get included, search engines do not have a person you can contact. There are bots that index web pages and you have to do ‘Academic SEO’ to ensure that they find your journal and articles. Here’s what that involves:

  1. XML generation: JATS XML is a great way to ‘communicate’ with the bots and give them the relevant metadata they need to show your content to the right people. However, JATS XML generation services can be expensive.
  2. Website content: As stated in the essentials, your website should include details that reinforce your authenticity, including names and designations of members of your editorial board, past issues of your journal, abstracts of articles, your editorial and review policies, etc.
  3. Constant optimization: SEO guidelines for search engines keep changing. You need to rank on the first page in search engine results for relevant queries in order to attract a regular reader base. One of the best ways to do so is to regularly add new content.

Search Engine Land and Moz are some of the best resources on Search Engine Optimization. Also, read Google Scholar’s support page for scholarly publishers.

IV: Media Relations

Media-and-public-relations

Communicating with the media is another great way to get your journal coverage. News about your launch, notable additions to your editorial board or if you’ve published some groundbreaking research — all of these are good ideas to pitch for PR. You will need to draft up a press release and send it to appropriate media outlets. For instance, news about your journal would be of interest to scholarly media outlets, but you could pitch news about groundbreaking research to popular news websites too.

V: Paid Marketing

Paid-marketing-to-increase-readership

If you have the budget to spare, there are several avenues for paid marketing. Most effective of these is paid search ads, wherein ads for your journal or content will show up at the top of search results when users search for relevant keywords. You can also buy ad space on popular websites that are relevant to your journal’s audience. Social media ads could also be experimented with.


The Checklist

checklist-to-increase-readership
  • Identify your niche
  • Apply for ISSN and DOI
  • Build a strong editorial board
  • Create your website
  • Connect with your local libraries
  • Create a list of commercial indexes relevant to your journal
  • Create a list of open databases relevant to your journal
  • Connect with the organizations and indexers for the inclusion of your journal in the above two lists.
  • Email researchers in your field inviting submissions.
  • Email prominent people of the scholarly community in your field, introduce your journal and invite them to be a part of your advisory/editorial board.
  • Read up about XML generation. Implement.
  • Submit your website to the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing!, Google Scholar)
  • Read up on SEO and start implementation.
  • Create and maintain a Twitter account.
  • Connect with prominent bloggers in your domain.
  • Create a press release of the latest news-worthy development at your journal and send it to relevant news outlets.
  • Network a lot to spread the word about your journal.
  • Build your personal brand to lend credibility to your journal.
  • If you have the budget, run PPC ads on search engines.
  • Experiment with paid ads on social media and relevant blogs.

Download this checklist.


I’ll let you in on a secret. With marketing and growing your readership, one thing is way more important than all else: consistency. It is not a one-time thing. Be consistent in releasing your issues, in your efforts to network and in marketing across all the channels you choose and you will see the results. Good Luck!


Before you go


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Appendix:

If you found the above article interesting, the following blogs might also interest you.

  1. Get Indexed: List of Prominent Indices for Academic Journals
  2. PDF to JATS XML Conversion — Why it’s important for an Academic Publisher
  3. Tools for STM Publishers: Running an Open Access journal on a shoestring budget
  4. How to Get Your Articles Indexed in PubMed: The Go-To Guide for Publishers