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October 16, 2018

The Challenges of Enhancing Scholar–Led Journal Visibility to Disparate Audiences

While we move towards the publication of the next issue of Exchanges, today I’ve been doing some background work with my Editorial Board looking towards the future. At its core is something dear to my heart as the Senior (EIC) Editor, which is considering ways to better market and promote the journal. I know for some the idea that we have to market academic scholarship leaves a rather nasty ideological taste in the learned mouth; it does in mine certainly. Nevertheless, academic publishing, even scholarly-led initiatives, operates in a domain of realpolitik; although you’ll excuse me if I’ll continue to cleave to my zeal and vision for a greater agency over publishing for the academy as a result.

The issue we face though for a currently, small and not especially well-known title like Exchanges, is we need to raise the visibility of the title, its mission and the scholarship it publishes. This is not an uncommon challenge for scholar-led titles and is exacerbated by the protectionist policies of the commercially owned key research publication indexes. I’m grateful at the very least that we appear in the DOAJ. Addressing this visibility challenge, means we need to work out ways of reaching out to hitherto unaware members of our various target audiences. In this respect, prospective authors without a doubt are a key demographic, but so too are potential members of our peer reviewer and reader communities. Alongside these there are certainly other audiences we could and should be also marketing to, although currently I’m most concerned with engaging these three most pressingly. Why? Well, without authors we have no content, without reviewers we have no quality assurance and without readers…well, there’s the existential threat writ large. Hence, this is why these are the groups I’m most concerned about making more aware of us.

So, one thing I’ve been doing recently is working out where Exchanges stands in terms of outreach: a term I’m perhaps more ideologically comfortable with than ‘marketing’, as it smacks more of activism than it does or corporatism. What I’ve isolated in my exercise is there’s a surprising range of things which myself, and members of the Editorial Board, have been doing over the past six months [1] to raise the journal’s visibility. Personal appearances at conferences and training events, developing a social media presence [2], redeveloping the website materials, considering approaches to developing ancillary and complementary media content, alongside producing the more traditional posters and flyers. Interestingly, I think my audit of marketing efforts has also revealed a tendency in the tenancy of prior Senior Editors towards unstructured, serendipitous and arguably ad-hoc promotional approaches. I may be incorrect in the assumption, but I’ve not uncovered evidence since the early years of any sustained coordinated activity. Former Senior Editors feel free to enlighten me here!

Yet, while what we have in development is all well and good it suggests two problematics need addressing with respect to audience outreach. Firstly, within the marketing mix we’ve adopted, are there other lucrative activities, opportunities or avenues which have yet to be explored? Secondly there is the question of how effective any of this marketing has been? The former question is one I’ve put to my Editorial Board, but naturally it's also something I’d more than welcome comments on here too.

In terms of the latter issue, this is something I’ve been working on establishing pretty much since I came on board, and certainly I’ve managed to make a handful of personal appearances at events and conferences to talk about the title. However, while these have been quite engaging and effective, they have been a touch Warwick centric. Given our global agenda for Exchanges, short of embarking on a 'Grand World Tour' to promote the title, they’re perhaps not the most cost or time effective promotional approach [3].

Hence, I’m hopeful that through myself and the Board adopting a more systematic approach through reviewing what we’re doing to promote Exchanges, that we’ll be able to answer these two questions more clearly. Naturally, with the added advantage of increasing the title’s visibility among our core audiences further, to everyone’s benefit! Watch this blog for more news as we move into the next phase of bringing the world to Exchange’s door.

[1] And doubtlessly before, but my journey with Exchanges started back in April, so please excuse the slight temporal myopia.

[2] Yes, of which this blog is a facet. So too is our twitter account (@ExchangesIAS), which you really should be following.

[3] Although I stand by my maxims of ‘ABM’ (always be marketing) and ‘Anywhere, any place, any time’, if people do want to hear about Exchanges from me in person. I'll keep the IAS VOTL on standby.

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