Marketing to readers

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Jacek Ciesielski, general manager of Poland-based publisher Versita believes that article-level marketing helps attract good papers and boost journal impact factors

Why did you start Versita?

Versita was formed in 2001 and started operations in 2002. In my view the publicising of research in eastern Europe is far from ideal. I thought that my company could have a role in identifying research that didn’t make it into the major international journals but deserves to be there. We publish our own journals in English, as well as third-party journals. In addition, we offer e-business solutions for other publishers. In the first two years of this we contracted around 150 journals to MetaPress.

We wanted to create professional journals. One aspect of this is technology and we were the first customer of Ingenta in central and eastern Europe.

We also wanted to develop journals that are properly shaped from a marketing point of view. Marketing is not usually thought of much by small society publishers. We wanted to promote the journals to readers and we decided to do this at the article level. When we publish an article we promote it to all the people we’ve cited in the article who are still active researchers. This is important because other authors learn that their work has been cited. It is also important for our authors as it gives them more chance of being cited too. We also promote the article to other people in exactly the same field. Potential authors see that if they publish with us we will do the same for their articles too.

Of course there are services where these people can find citation information but we wanted to be more proactive. For every journal there are assistant editors whose job includes finding the relevant people to promote the articles to. We bring the food to the readers rather than them having to go to the buffet. In this way we have been able to grow our impact factors quickly.

What subjects do you cover?

We did a lot of analysis before the first dollar was spent. Central and eastern Europe is strong in maths and the physical sciences so we started in those areas. Then we moved into life sciences, engineering and computer science. We are not yet active in social sciences and the humanities, but we plan to go there.

We started on the assumption that the journals would focus on good research in eastern and central Europe. Now we have evolved so that we publish good content from anywhere. The bar is set high and is at the same level for everyone. I’m very pleased when I hear scientists say that Versita is a valid choice when they have high-quality research.

We have proven that professional journals can be launched and run in this part of Europe. We have shown to the STM publishing industry that commercial publishers do not have to be 300 years old and be based in the USA, UK, the Netherlands or Germany.

Why do you partner with Springer?

With STM journals the marketing tends to be very passive, compared with going into a shop and being bombarded with sales messages. When you only have a few journals it is very difficult to distribute them globally. To be active we needed to do more than just work with intermediaries who would process our orders. We have been working with Springer since 2006. We are very pleased with this and have just renewed the relationship.

We will also be launching books with another partner, Walter de Gruyter. This won’t initially be a huge publishing programme but we believe it will become a strong offering in the region. Around one per cent of books published in Central and Eastern Europe are in English, compared with 10 to 15 per cent of journals. There is still a lot of space for local-language publishing and only local companies can really do this. They will be in both electronic and print formats and we really appreciate the efforts of large publishers like Springer in pioneering e-books.

What challenges do you face?

We don’t see any real challenges in STM publishing in our region because funding for science has grown since central and eastern European countries joined the European Union. In my homeland, Poland, GDP is growing even in the financial crisis. There are also more and more pan-European projects that scientists here are involved in.

I see a serious challenge for some journals in eastern Europe though if they don’t invest in technology and think about marketing. In addition, science policy in eastern and central Europe does not pay enough attention to publishing at the moment. There are some ideas but they don’t reach the scientists on the ground.

Interview by Siân Harris