Catriona Hauer from the Taylor & Francis Marketing team discusses maximizing the impact of individual articles, whilst also “thinking big.”
I recently had the chance to talk at two of our Editor Workshops, and it was a great pleasure to meet many of our editors there. This article recaps some of the information I shared at that event, but given the ensuing conversations, questions, and challenges that came from this astute audience, I’ve reframed my narrative.
And why? Because, at the heart of my talk were two potentially contradictory messages – the need to think big, and the opportunity for success at an individual article level. How do we, as your publisher, marketing your journal, make sense of these conflicting drivers?
The current marketing landscape
Firstly, we need to step back, look at the current marketing landscape, and talk about metrics. Our marketing is now predominantly online. In fact, in terms of what we “send out” as marketing, mailed print pieces are now only 2% of the overall total. Print still represents one of our two largest areas of marketing spend (the other area being conference attendance) and printed material is still effective, but putting a flier into an envelope and posting it out was slow, costly, and rewarded us with few metrics.
Conversely, online, email, and social marketing give us immediacy, connection, and feedback. Here I name just some of our current metrics: email opens, clicks, and shares; advert clicks; token activations; e-Table of Content registrations; social “likes”, posts, followers, fans, shares, retweets and mentions; webpage views and referrals; and – probably our most scrutinized measure – article downloads.
So we have lots of measures, plus we have our internal Research and Business Intelligence team reviewing our marketing performance and helping us set benchmarks and targets. As a result we are more evidence-based in our approach. And the most significant outcome of the evidence so far is that we have learned to think big.
Our results show that while our email performs well as per industry standards, the underlying average reveals a stark fact: that only 5% of recipients follow our “call to action” in the email. In other words, if we want 500 people to interact with a campaign then we should send it to 10,000 recipients.
When we first discussed this, our median campaign size was 1,600 recipients. Following this advice, we have looked to grow our lists, while still remaining relevant to the recipient. To be successful, thinking big involves a larger offer, a broader subject interest, and a longer window of opportunity. We’ve managed to do this without increasing unsubscribe rates and now have a median campaign size of just under 3,000. Moreover, around 20% of campaigns fall into the 8,000+ category. This is improving our results already. An example? The “Arab Spring” article collection resulted in 9,700 full-text downloads last year. The inspiringly named “Arab Spring Revisited” collection in 2013 has far surpassed its original, and has driven 22,000 downloads.
The other advantage of big campaigns is that they work on a scale where we can experiment and draw some meaningful conclusions. At the Editor Workshop I talked through two really big campaigns that involved setting whole subject taxonomies free for a whole month. These have obvious benefits in terms of increasing usage and raising awareness, but they also give us a sort of lab-test environment for marketing. What we learned from the last major campaign was that registration is not such a barrier to usage as we assumed, and that these campaigns definitely drive usage among our paid customers, as well as attracting new prospects.
Article and author marketing
So, being big is important. Yet we can’t just find large numbers of recipients or a broad enough offer for every campaign. It depends on the subject area, target region, and purpose of the campaign. At individual journal brandlevel it’s unlikely we can achieve that kind of scale. And ultimately that means finding the right balance because right down at the other end of the scale – at article level – we’re also seeing considerable success.
Our marketing teams have the challenge of marketing multiple brands – that of the publisher, the imprint, the platform as well as the journal, and now, increasingly there is a shift towards the individual author "brand.” To achieve the latter, it really is about helping the authors promote themselves, and we offer advice and promotional tools for authors to do this. Currently we’re also working with Kudos on a pilot project to help authors promote their articles more successfully.
Encouraging authors to self-promote does have some potential pitfalls – for example, if they undertake press work before the article is published then there is no DOI to reference, and much of the impact of tying the coverage back to the original article is lost. Also, we’ve seen problems where an author does this too successfully – promoting an article to a large corpus of social media colleagues, and then causing frustration when the full article is hidden behind a paywall.
For this reason, we monitor Altmetrics reports in order to spot any sudden spikes in attempted usage. We can then decide to open up an article retrospectively if we get significant interest. However, we’re also looking for systematized ways to achieve the same outcome in the future.
Press engagement with our content is important and has also seen an upturn. We’ve had coverage in global media, in newspapers, radio, and even television (a highlight was hearing one of our articles used as a question on QI!). Beyond the obvious objective of press promotion – raising the profile of the researchers and the journal brand – another important angle is that journalists translate research papers for the general public, increasing our “open-ness” and social impact. What has been surprising is the level to which it has also driven usage, even though this is not our core academic audience.
Getting the balance right
So, what does this all mean? Well, in my mind, it’s about getting partnerships right. The publisher is there to provide large-scale promotion, the infrastructure of communication networks, a mix of marketing opportunities, and individual brand work where applicable. Authors should be championing and promoting their work alongside that, making use of the tools and advice that we can provide them with. And finally you, as editors, should be on the lookout for noteworthy papers worthy of press promotion.
Oh – and possibly advising authors to give their titles appropriately pithy and meaningful titles. I don’t suggest that everyone takes it quite to the level of “F**k Jared Diamond”, but I can tell you this paper certainly has received a lot of social media coverage and downloads!