ContentWise Blog

What Scholarly Publishing Can Learn from the Consumer World

Several weeks ago, I spoke at a meeting of specialized publishers who serve professional and scholarly audiences. Because the session was titled, in part, “Thriving on Disruption,” I did what I could to disrupt things—such as showing screenshots of oddball content plays I had dreamed up.

For instance, websites like “eHow for Surgeons”: Right there next to the video tutorials on how to make the greatest guacamole ever, I suggested, would be step-by-step footage showing how to do the best appendectomy ever! Or “Groupon for Aerospace Engineers”: Save 30 percent on launch pad time (group rates available). Or “Law-Yelp,” a service that lets trial lawyers share ratings and recommendations with their fellow litigators about judges, jury pools, courtrooms, transcription services, bail bondsmen, and private golf clubs.

I should explain that the full title of this panel was “Thriving on Disruption: Lessons for Scholarly Publishing From Consumer Content.” So my thought was, why not map blatantly mass-market, consumer-focused, online publishing strategies right on to the professional and scholarly realm—and see what happens?

Though the exercise may have seemed extreme, I billed it as a warm-up to get people primed for thinking outside their usual boxes. And, as I pointed out, while things like eHow for Surgeons may sound like a joke, in fact some smart publishers in the medical realm already have first approximations of such sites up and running. (See the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery’s Essential Surgical Techniques, a project we helped develop.)

Angry Bosons gameSo, while we’re at it, what about a variation on a popular smartphone game to serve a specialized audience of physicists? Instead of using a slingshot to hurl birds at pigs, players would throw protons at each other in the hopes of creating the elusive Higgs particle. Call it “Angry Bosons!”

If you’d like to see all my fake screenshots or review a list of other consumer sites I recommend as inspiration for thinking outside of your own particular box, please feel free to download my presentation slides (as a PDF document).