How does written content reach its target audience? The answer to this question is a little different in every possible permutation of the publishing industry, and it has changed immensely over time in reaction to changes brought on by new technological developments. Scholarly journal publishers operating in the scientific, technological and medical (STM) field have become pioneers in digital distribution methods, with the IT systems powering their releases enabling researchers to gain access to data in new and compelling ways.
"Leaders in STM publication can make their results more compelling."
The power of digital
One of the reasons STM publishers are such a compelling example of content distribution done right is the fact that they have gone well beyond just putting materials online with their form unchanged. Instead, organizations have begun to turn to interactive STM journals, which add new features to the equation. A publication sent out as PDFs or static Web pages is just a simulacrum of the printed page. Leaders in STM publication have proven that they can make their end results more compelling.
A recent Digital Book World blog post by contributor Felix Wenzel pointed out that the current business model preferred by these publishers today - selling subscriptions to online content - is a bold example of a best practice. Companies in other fields are wondering how to ensure their digital materials are properly valued by readers, trying everything up to and including releasing custom applications to ensure they have revenue. These efforts are expensive and can be wasteful when a great lineup of online content with good usability features could be all publishing houses need to step up in their markets.
Wenzel noted that organizations following the STM lead in other fields should go with the approach that has already made its mark with these firms, setting up responsive Web content that conforms to the device it's viewed on and always gives an ideal view of the company's offerings. This is less complicated than developing separate portals for mobile and PC users and just as potentially useful from an accessibility standpoint. The fact that STM publishers were cited as an example of great digital distributors means that there is pressure on leaders in this field to push the envelope.
"PDF journals should give way to options that allow interaction."
Projecting the market's future
When it comes to the future of the STM field, it's easy to imagine the interactive STM journal model becoming more entrenched. BioMed Central contributor Sabina Alam suggested that PDF journals should give way to options that allow peer review and other types of interaction after their publication. This means integrating HTML5 and crafting responsive pages that permit researchers to go further into their work and that of their contemporaries. Engagement between scientists is the crux of the scientific method.
The author noted that articles with both print and digital versions don't have to be identical in each format. The online platform allows new features, and as such, e-journals can "complement and enhance" print content instead of mimicking it. Alam indicated that when a website becomes the main distribution hub for research materials, the presentation options multiply. It's up to publishers to embrace the new functionality.