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Christina's LIS Rant
Sunday, May 03, 2009
  How should advertising work in online journals?
(all this of course, IMHO, and not representing anyone else - but I'd like to start a conversation)

Compare many statements of the type:
"I don't want to pay for access, just support your service with advertising"
"It should be all open access, with the author paying, unless the author can't, then some foundation or other ought to pick up the slack"

to my horrified reaction:
"evil big publisher x dares to have Google ads on e access to journal y which we pay $x,000 a year to get"

to scientist/engineer reality:
"I sort of miss the ads for equipment and jobs, it made it easier to keep up with that sort of thing. I still flip through my society pub in print so I can get them. I'd like to be able to see older ones, too."

to publisher's reality:
Some publishers are picking only very relevant ads - like ones for scientific instruments while others, like one that starts with an Sp use Google Ads and they're frequently crap.

So how do we solve this problem? Some magazines have created online analogs of the print, that you can flip through like the print - and see ads, but this isn't the way most people use e-journals now. Magazines and trade pubs are used differently than journals. Some of the publishers surround the html pages for journal articles with carefully selected ads, but what do you do about pdf articles and "seagull" users (swoop in, grab pdf, leave)?

What would you say if your journal article got published and when it came out, it had an ad at the top of the pdf page? Maybe from a company you didn't like for some reason? (like poor experience with equipment or ethics or just bad blood with a sales person) Or what if you thought it made it look like your paper (or data gathering) were sponsored by that company, which could be a conflict of interest?
 
Comments:
Hi Christina: I see no problem with Google ads in peer-reviewed OA (or even TA) journals. They may not produce enough revenue to float the journal, but they produce some and every little bit helps. In addition, the specific ads are chosen by algorithm to fit the page content, which means that the editors don't know the advertisers in advance. That answers reader suspicions that editors might kowtow to advertisers. I wrote a short article about this in February 2006.

I dislike ads as much as anyone else. But when they can't corrupt editorial judgment and can help a journal drop subscriptions and convert to OA, they are definitely worth it.
 
The real question is - how do you demonstrate the advertising's impact? We are moving toward a future where only ads that provide clear online metrics and product sales will still be around, plus a small number of megabucks vanity ads from cash-rich corporations. Can your journal show the advertiser that 150 affluent doctors saw the advert, and that 4 of those doctors went on to make hard enquiries about the product?

If you want to keep ads out of the journal, can your sponsor offer your readers a printed glossy worth-reading "parallel journal" that can be sent to their home address, containing their ads alongside human-interest stories about research in their field, and photo-essays putting a human face on the field - and perhaps with some money-off coupons in the back?
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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