Sunday, November 06, 2005

The internet strategies of scientific journals

After a post in Nodalpoint about Nature's podcast I was left thinking a bit about the different responses of the different well known science journals to the increase of internet usage and changes in the technologies available.
I took a quick look at the publishing houses behind nature (Nature Publishing Group), cell (Cell Press), science (AAAS), PLoS and the BMC journals. There are a lot more publishers but these are sufficient to make the point.
What is the first impact? Only a fraction of these have the portal attitude (mostly Nature and the BMC journals) with content in the first page and gateways of specialized content. The rest have almost no real content apart from linking to the respective journals.
What if we try to dig further ? Well they all have an RSS feed to the content. Funny enough almost all of them have a jobs listing (except PLoS). Almost all have a list of most accessed articles (except Science).
Only Science and Nature produce news content for the general public that are good to attract other people than researchers to their sites. The equivalent in BMC would be the content of The Scientist that they have on the site and in PLoS it would be the synopsis that come with all papers.
How many allow for comments ? Only the two most recent publishers (BMC and PLoS) but PLoS is a bit more formal about it, and Science allow for comments online.
Then it comes downs to some particular content and services. BMC has several possible interesting services like the Peoples Archive, images MD, Primers in Biology. Then there is Nature with Connotea, Nature podcast, Nature products and Nature events.

So what is the point ? In the tech world first it was all about portals and creating content to keep people coming back. Nowadays it seems to be more about free services and there are very few of these publishers following the trend. Good services build brand and attract viewers.
The simple conclusion is that only Nature and BMC are building their sites and playing with new services like a tech company would and although the impact at present time is minimal, when researchers start using more online services these sites will have a head start.