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The evolution of online access. From institution to end-user, and back again

According to last year's Scholarly Publishing Practice report from the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) 75 per cent of all journals published are now available online.

For publishers, the question now is not whether to go online but how to do so in a way that maximises their revenue potential. To answer this question, it is worth looking at the key drivers in online publishing.

Institutional access
Academic institutions drove the initial move to online publishing, because librarians recognised a number of key benefits. It enables researchers worldwide to access content through professional databases and link seamlessly to associated articles.

An extensive network of aggregators and intermediaries, such as EBSCO, Ingenta, ISI, and SwetsWise, has grown to service this trend. Google, Yahoo, and other main players in the search-engine world have also joined in, and vehicles such as CrossRef have sprung up to ensure consistency within journal linking.

With all this in place, new business models were demanded to fit the new delivery channels. Access to back issues was seen as mandatory. Bundling, site licences, and pay-per-view, became part of the vocabulary.

Consortia were formed by the institutions, to take advantage of their collective purchasing power, and librarians added the direct management of e-access to their long lists of tasks.

Extenza hosting service
From a publisher's perspective, these changes presented challenges because many lacked the technical and financial resources required. Extenza e-Publishing Services was launched in March 2003, to help publishers cross the electronic divide painlessly. We provide a cost-effective and comprehensive end-to-end conversion and hosting service for STM publishers, which retains a publisher's branding and editorial integrity. Publishers' content is hosted on our managed platform and header files are placed with the main aggregators and intermediaries worldwide.

In the drive to broaden reach, we also work with Google to enable users to retrieve articles directly from a Google search. CrossRef is the standard mechanism we use to link to cited articles. Access is controlled through a variety of means � IP address validation, username/password, or Athens ID. And we provide a suite of services for librarians that ensures they are on top of the situation.

The rise of the end-user
As the institutional need was met, a new one emerged. Society and association members approached online access with very different needs from those of the institution they belonged to. Individual researchers began to source information themselves by going directly to publishers' websites. Here, they expected to see many of the services that an institution would see on our platform, and often much more.

Obviously, the ability to search directly for a specific article, or browse abstracts and tables of contents, is a must. End-users also want to be alerted when there is something of interest that is published, with TOC alerting as well as RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

These methods of alerting users are known to drive traffic and many users prefer to have a regular update. They also signify a shift towards proactive services that are tailored to the end-user.

Allied with these developments come the needs to register, pay for and immediately receive content, as well as onscreen help, and customer service call centres to explain the service and manage any difficulties.

Publisher websites
Extenza now offers publishers highly customised websites with leading-edge functionality at a very competitive price. The solution provides access to any number of a publisher's journals from its own URL. Publishers benefit from their own branding by integrating their logos and corporate colours. They also benefit from a rich suite of functionality. Subscribers have secure access to both current and archived issues of their journals.

And managed journal-access ensures that only authorised users can read the content, while others are pushed to subscribe or pay-per-view options. Sophisticated website management tools, including the ability to manage subscribers, download reports and change a wide range of marketing content across the website themselves, ensure that the publishers are always in control.

The future
What do we see in the future? Increasingly the two services outlined here are merging: institutions are, after all, groups of end-users. We have therefore integrated the two services, so that customers and potential customers can travel seamlessly between the content they subscribe to, and promotional descriptions of content they don't subscribe to.

Users are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They now wish to personalise homepages, the content they receive and how they receive it. They expect discussion forums and feedback requests to channel their communication.

Serving users and publishers
On the flip side, publishers want to promote free trial offers, TOC alerts, and most-read articles. They also want to add new content, such as advertising, news feeds, job postings, and events. We now provide all of these under our Extenza Enhanced service, which is changing almost daily.

We will continue to listen to our publisher clients, and the librarians they serve, and evolve our services accordingly. We also welcome comments from readers.
Ruth Jones is general manager of Extenza's e-Publishing Services.

contact details

Ruth Jones, Extenza e-Publishing Services
Tel: +44 (0)1235 857710
Fax: +44 (0)1235 857637
Email: rjones@extenza.co.uk
Web: www.extenza.co.uk