The digital marketplace could present a whole new frontier for scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishers. These organizations are free to experiment, with new release models and pricing strategies letting them embrace strategies that would never have worked in the era when paper magazines were the primary knowledge delivery vector. The rise of interactive STM journals is one element of this transformation, with content no longer limited to a restrictive format. With actions such as reader comments and data manipulation integrated into the form of the publications, there is ample room for authors and publishers alike to explore new areas of interest.
"TED Talks were once a scholarly resource, but their scope has widened."
A recent Re/code report by contributor Joe Hyrkin presented a fascinating snapshot of the publishing industry as it stands today. Dominated by online media, there has been push-back against very brief and light pieces and a wholesale embrace of niche content. Could this be what academic publishers need to gain greater exposure for their work? It's possible, as the author pointed out that TED Talks were once a scholarly resource, but their scope has widened, taking in new topics and gaining widespread interest, even for more esoteric subjects. Today's online viewers are connoisseurs of information, and academic publishers may want to rethink their mainstream appeal.
This isn't to say that scholarly journals will become water cooler conversation fodder overnight. However, there are indications that academic articles could, in some form, hold sway with the general public. Hyrkin explained that the process of deep knowledge acquisition is a millennial trait. These young individuals are interested in studying up on topics that interest them, using niche facts as core components of their overall identities. Long, informational pieces may suit readers' tastes in ways that lists and overly on-the-nose short pieces don't. Academic publishers with strong platforms for knowledge distribution could find themselves with appeal they never considered.
"Presenting in-depth has caught on in more mainstream spaces."
Going long on a topic and presenting in-depth data are two absolute musts in academia and, strange though it may seem, Hyrkin has seen them catch on in more mainstream spaces. He stated that TED's numbers-oriented early approach "may seem far too boring or in-depth for today's distracted consumer." However, it was that level of detail that turned TED into a household name. Organizations that primarily publish academic articles could find themselves in an ideal position if they have access to information that is on the cutting edge of its industry and a channel through which to make it accessible.
No matter whether or not non-academic audiences take an interest in a particular field, e-journals should be excellent distribution platforms for information exchange between researchers. Adopting an interactive model allows publishers to streamline processes such as peer review. It's not necessary to make digital products today similar to paper journals, and as such, PDFs have become antiquated. By presenting journals in a format that is more like a Web page than a static document, publishers can encourage scholars to engage with their peers' work. If laymen catch on to particular research, that's a great bonus - but making the content available to the research community is fundamental.