The holy grail in Open Access: sharing that benefits authors

The holy grail of Open Access: sharing that benefits authors

As a researcher, you are often urged to make your work openly accessible. And sure, that’s a laudable goal, but… What’s in it for you?

With job prospects in academia being not that rosy, it is no surprise that open access is not the primary consideration for researchers considering where to get their work published. When push comes to shove, making a living is more important than access to your research.

But why not both? You can give yourself that career boost and support open access. Continue reading “The holy grail in Open Access: sharing that benefits authors”

I want to create alternatives to traditional publishers. What platform do I use?

After launching Flockademic, a service to help researchers start alternatives to the traditional publishers, one of the most frequent questions I received was: how is it different from Open Journal Systems, the Open Science Framework, arXiv, and other initiatives?

Sometimes it’s easiest to understand a project by comparing it to others. So with that in mind: let’s do a comparison. Continue reading “I want to create alternatives to traditional publishers. What platform do I use?”

Open access and the versioning issue — do we need to solve this?

Open access and the versioning issue — do we need to solve this?

One of the major issues with institutional repositories is that it is difficult to get researchers to self-deposit their work. Assuming one could wave a magic wand and solve that, institutional repositories still have another barrier to overcome — the discovery barrier.

With content scattered across thousands of sites, one would need an aggregator site to provide a one-search across all of them. Continue reading “Open access and the versioning issue — do we need to solve this?”

The Scholarship Monopoly

No I don’t mean the game we all played as kids with railroads and hotels and a questionable gentleman in a top hat.

Scholarship monopoly is a very serious concern for academics of all sorts. Really, any monopoly is a concern in any kind of business or industry. It’s a given that competition helps us grow, inspires us to try harder, and pushes the best ideas and products to the fore. Academia is slightly different, in that competition is more about comparing and checking theories and ideas with peers. Rather than directly competing with each other, academics work off each other to verify data and draw conclusions.

So where does the monopoly come into this?

The publishers of academic content, those responsible in a large part for disseminating academic findings and pairing academics with peer reviewers. But what if those publishing were concentrated into a very few, for profit companies? The potential for a monopoly arises.

This is exactly the current dilemma academic publishing is in. Much like the traditional publishing industry, academic publishing is dominated by a “Big 5” group of publishers, accounting for almost 50% of all academic publishing per year.

To get a more complete understanding of the academic publishing and dissemination lifecycle, let’s first break down the stages of this process:

  1. Research
  2. Publishing
  3. Evaluation

Research is the meat of the content creation process, and rests entirely with the academic—be it a professor, researcher, or student. The individual finds and evaluates data, forms a hypothesis, and gathers their conclusions to form their content.

With content gathered, the publishing process begins. Traditionally, this involves sending the content to a publisher, who has a staff of editors and designers to layout and prepare the content. What begins as data ends up a fully formed paper or even a book. In most instances, the content creator is detached from this step.

Finally, the content in it’s completed form is evaluated by other academics. Once the content is deemed as complete by peer reviewers, it becomes a part of the greater body of academic work. Student’s learn from it, professors teach from it. The content takes a place among all other academic material.

The problem academia faces stems from the handling of this three-stage process. From From the “Knowledge Gap” project:

“At first sight, there is an obvious concern of a conflict of interest. This is especially true when the supplier of academic journals is also in charge of evaluating and validating research quality and impact (eg: pure, plum analytics, Sci Val), identifying academic experts to direct to potential employers (eg: Expert Lookup), managing the research networking platforms through which to collaborate (eg: SSRN, Hivebench, Mendeley), managing the infrastructure through which to find funding (eg: plum X, Mendeley, Sci Val), and controlling the platforms through which to analyze and store your data (Eg: Hivebench, Mendeley).”

The acknowledgement is that companies like Elsevier have begun to rebrand themselves as Analytics tools for the gathering and dissemination of academic knowledge materials, distancing themselves from the strictly publishing oriented role they previously focused upon. Because Elsevier (and the other large academic publishers) owns a disproportionate amount of the existing publications of academic value, they are well positioned to capitalize on this content by offering increased analytical data from this content. But the control over such a portion of the academic content creates a monopoly, limits competition, and provides academics no real choice other than to buy into the monopoly.

Glasstree is but one of many alternatives to the traditional academic publishing and review mechanism. I am not writing this piece today as an advertisement for Glasstree in specific terms, as we often have in the past. What’s more important is to acknowledge the process of academic publishing and the stranglehold large academic publishers, under the guise of “Information Analytics Companies” and residing behind a paywall, have on the availability of knowledge.

There have been and continue to be pockets of opposition to the academic publishing model, but the cost of avoiding the mainstream publishing methods is steep. Academics find themselves without the needed means of reviewing and disseminating their data, trapped outside the broader field of knowledge. Research and data published outside of traditional means have a perceived lack of credibility.

Coupled with the reduced cost of digital printing and the connectivity of modern communications tools, the means and costs of academic publishing should be plummeting, while the openness and access to materials should be broader than ever. This is not the case, and one possible (if not likely) cause is the grip large academic publishers have on the entire process. Anytime so much data is concentrated with so few entities, the risk of monopoly is great. This data is crucial, as it represents the broad knowledge of all of academia.

As one of many alternatives to the currently accepted academic normal, Glasstree wholeheartedly encourages all researchers, students, and educators to carefully consider their options when disseminating their knowledge, and to take any opportunity they can to break from the normal models with self-publishing, independent reviews, and institution based printing.

The independent publishing revolution has slowly asserted itself on the traditional publishing industry; now it is widely considered a formidable adversary of the old publishing model, and the publishers of years’ past are scrambling to take on digital printing tools to remain competitive. Academia can learn from this despite their differing needs. The financializing of academic publishing will not stop now that it has proven to be profitable. As such, academia must adapt if the individuals and institutions hope to maintain the standards for their work and to prevent the overwhelming monopoly traditional academic publishers, under their new moniker “Information Analytics Companies,” are quickly attaining.




Launching your own academic journal shouldn’t just be a pipedream!

Photo by Sandis Helvigs on Unsplash

This post is for you if you don’t feel you have a home for your research. It’s for you if you are in a niche field not well covered by broader journals or part of a community that is growing in confidence, but hasn’t a journal to call its own. Most importantly though, it’s for you if have the will and vision to launch your own journal and help to take back control of publishing.

If you are still reading, then this is you, and we salute you. Your endeavour will make a change for the better. And change in publishing is needed. You are taking back control and will put in the work to make a new journal a reality. We know it’s hard, but isn’t that true of everything worthwhile? We believe in you. Voices like yours must be heard. You have the contacts to bring together an impressive editorial board. You will mobilise reviewers and attract the best papers to increase the quality and quantity of research published in your area. If you don’t do this, then who will?

Your journal is your mission, but we will help. You needn’t do this alone. We have cloud-based systems to handle the backend processes. Our submission, peer review and publishing systems are user friendly and make your content discoverable. You only need to focus on your editorial roles. And don’t worry about cost, we have you covered! You are just starting out and will publish few papers — so why not do it for free? We will give you the systems, a website and PDF articles (with DOIs) that are indexed in Google Scholar. There’s no catch, we just want to help get your journal started. You can set up your journal in minutes and can publish up to five articles per year for free.

We want your journal to grow and want you to grow with us. In time, we hope you will upgrade to our unlimited package and then on to our full-text HTML product that will make your research even more discoverable; but only when the time is right! Even then, we will only charge £300 per article, which is much, much lower than traditional publishers.

But that’s for the future. You just need to get started. So what are you waiting for? Your journal awaits. Launch it today for free. There is no obligation and you will be changing publishing for the better!

Veruscript Publishing Services helps you to launch your own journals. Our basic package is free of charge, which lets you publish up to five PDF articles per year and gives you your own website. Launch your journal today by contacting us at

Launching your own academic journal shouldn’t just be a pipedream! was originally published in Veruscript Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Using APIs in Academia

Academic publishing is a necessity, yet continues to be a point of concern for institutions and individuals alike. Academics, students, teachers, and researchers all need the ability to publish and share their findings, but the model academic publishers utilize is woefully inadequate. Not only do publishers exploit their authors for profit, they also gate this content, meaning some information may never see publication regardless of how important or valuable the information may be.

Glasstree’s continuing mission is to break down those barriers. We started by introducing self-publishing to academia with Glasstree’s publishing tools. Instead of hoping to be accepted by a publisher, Glasstree empowers academics to take control of their content by publish it themselves!

Lulu is Glasstree’s parent company, and together we aim to make knowledge, literature, and publishing available to everyone. Whatever your story – be it a fictional novel or a dissertation – we are here to help you share.

The next step in our evolution is here: Print API.

What is an API? And how does this new tool benefit academics interested in self-publishing? Keep reading and we’ll explore these questions.


Even if you’re unfamiliar with the technical aspects of APIs for software, you’ve almost certainly encountered them online without realizing. The acronym API stands for “Application Programming Interface.” Most basically, API is code that allows two unique pieces of software to talk to each other. This, in and of itself, is pretty simple.

Retailers, individuals, and institutions all make use of APIs to expand their capabilities and offer their users more options, better pricing, faster shipping and much more. Lulu’s Print API serves the same functionality. Once the API is integrated, users can create unique “buy now” options on their SHOP pages within their websites, and all orders placed are channeled into our global printing network, to be fulfilled by the same process as any order on Glasstree.

Breaking down Boundaries, Creating Partners

From a technical stand point, our Print API service may not seem like an exciting piece of news for the individual author (APIs run in the background and are never seen). API tools are usually meant for web developers, who implement the cross-platform code so the two discrete programs work in harmony. The average author might have little need for an API connection if they don’t want to deal with selling directly from their website.

That being said, publishers and academics need APIs for many things. We understand that need, because we’ve lived in that world for the last fifteen years. We’ve witnessed, year after year, small and independent publishers who start up, bring on a handful of authors, publish a few books, and then eventually fold. Yes, of course, some small publishers succeed, and some even succeed beyond all expectations. We’re more concerned with the publishers who couldn’t keep up.

One of the biggest problems facing many small publishers is the cost associated with printing and fulfilling book orders. The price to print and ship can be prohibitive for small publishers, who likely are operating on a limited budget and need to make the most out of every dollar invested. Print API is an answer to the funding problems these small publishers face. Because the Lulu Print API can be implemented to allow for direct print on demand services at low prices, small publishers can remove the cost of printing and storing books from their budget.

Just like using Lulu’s self-publishing tools, the Print API features all the formats and sizes Lulu has to offer, at the same low prices, and with the same quality and global shipping you’ve come to expect from Lulu. The difference is that publishers the world over can plug into our network while maintaining their brand’s independence.

Harnessing the power of the Web


The API process capitalizes on Internet connectivity to enable collaboration among a variety of companies and individuals, further opening the printing and publishing world to more readers, authors, and publishers.

Pricing is another important aspect to consider with an API connection. Rather than pricing your book on the Glasstree site for your profit and our commission, you price it with 100% return of profits. The price you charge on your site is entirely up to you! With the API integrated, the order bills from Glasstree to you for the printing and shipping, while the amount you charge a customer is entirely on your end. This expands on the already generous and easy to control profit model Glasstree utilizes.

In a university setting, an API tool is a means to offer the institution’s students and teachers a means to publishing and sharing their work all from within the institution. The college bookstore can host these print-on-demand titles on their website, and facilitate printing through the API connection. Costs are minimal, and the bookstore can easily make the necessary profits, all while control overhead and storage.

An API connection completely removes barriers to publishing. The institution need only implement the API and provide the file standards for uploading (the same specifications used for publishing on Glasstree). Students, teachers, and researchers can all publish their works at a minimal expense, while their institutions can list these books via our API on a college bookstore website for anyone to purchase.

Integration is In

Using API integration is more than just the cool new thing happening across the web. Take a look at this article from TechCrunch last year, “The Rise of APIs”. While the title sounds very Terminator-esque, the point the author makes is clear: third-party APIs are the future, and they are here to shake up the way the Internet works. The opening paragraph of the article sums it up; ” there is a rising wave of software innovation in the area of APIs that provide critical connective tissue and increasingly important functionality.”

While a clean and easy-to-navigate interface is always going to be important, the ability to quickly implement a new program through API connections is what will keep web based retailers one step ahead. Adding new features, replacing out of date products, and generally being able to work with the range of other programs on the web is a key to staying relevant; using API connections solves all of these problems. All modern software providers are conscious of API connectivity, and the implications of creating software that does not allow for API integration. The way of the future is sharing, through both open and private API connections, and mutually finding success through shared programming.

Lulu and Glasstree embraces this mentality wholly. From the first day, we’ve been a company designed to help content creators better share their stories and knowledge. Enabling API connections with our print network is a logical and necessary step for us.

Looking to the Future

Academia has always been an institution that had to keep an eye toward the future. Because schools and teachers are the ambassadors of knowledge for generations to come, the means to disseminate and archive knowledge has always been critical.

Look for more from Glasstree in the future, as we continue to make innovations in the publishing community. For now, you can check out our API/Developer’s Portal site at to learn more about Print API and see if the tool might be right for you.

Academic Publishing: Then and Now

Education and Academia are an ever evolving organism, changing to fit the times and the demands of the population. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, academic merit and scholarly reputation were tied most closely with social status and not knowledge! Academia grew from a “who you know” institutional structure to a merit based design, emphasizing the recognition of published works as a means of evaluating the scholar.

This model persisted, and eventually gave rise to the need for dedicated academic publishing, to facilitate the many intellectuals, scholars, students, and researchers who wished to both share their knowledge and grow their reputation. Today academic publishing is the standard metric for demonstrating expertise in a given field. It is all but assured that an aspiring academic will publish, and continue to publish throughout their career.

In the last century academic and scholarly publishing has grown tremendously, following the same growth acceleration as the size and enrollment of colleges across Europe and North America. Publishers and educational institutions have scrambled to keep up. In this mix entered the commercial publishers, who prioritized profit and reach over quality. As with any commercial endeavor, the classic goals of university and learned society publishing shifted from a scholarly mission to profit generation.

Glasstree offers itself as a middle ground to this problem. A means to publish important and relevant academic work in a timely and cost effective fashion, without sacrificing the opportunity to realize significant profits for the author(s). We believe that profits are important, but that they should not be controlled by a small number of large commercial publishers.

Academic publishing differs from traditional publishing in important ways, and any publishing company seeking to facilitate academic publishing must operate with these concerns in mind. In particular, peer-review has become a tense subject among individual academics, who fear the profit driven publishers will leverage the importance of peer-review to constrain or control what materials are available.

The alternative is Glasstree, a fully supported publishing company without the constraints traditional publishers impose. Offering all the services a scholar or student will need, with none of the restrictions, Glasstree integrates the independent publishing mentality without sacrificing any of the tools academics need for their work.

Glasstree enables academics to make a significant profit from their own work, reversing the traditional academic publishing revenue model, which typically pays authors an average of just 9% royalties, to offer 70% of the profits from sales. Its accelerated speed-to-market allows academics to publish their research in a matter of days or weeks, sharing their insights in record time.

For more details on Glasstree Academic Publishing, please visit

Start-up story: Glasstree Academic Publishing

By Jean Roberts

Glasstree Academic Publishing is a non-licence cloud-based content dissemination platform supporting e-book, print and open access (OA) publishing, which was launched in November 2016. Glasstree is a subdivision of, a large USA-based independent publishing platform which has published more than two million books since 2002. Lulu analyzed their author database and discovered that at least 38 per cent of Lulu’s content was produced by academic authors independently publishing their works. The company was keen to look at ways it could better understand and support this academic community. It became apparent that this pattern of publishing was indicative of an emerging trend, a drive to seek alternative means of getting content into the public domain, embraced by a group of academic entrepreneurial innovators who wanted their work to become accessible and were willing to sacrifice their relationships with traditional publishing in order to do so.

After conducting direct discussions with a representative sample of those academics, Lulu supported the concept that every academic professional in every institution should have the right to publish their monographs, books, articles and papers independently. After major collaboration with these academics, Glasstree Academic Publishing was launched to better support their needs and provide a focused academic content platform, incorporating the same functions and services as a traditional academic publisher would provide. The idea was not only to replicate, but to improve upon the experience that traditional publishers provide to authors, particularly as regards the ability to redirect ownership and revenues back to the author. Glasstree offers print and digital options, copy-editing services, gold OA and peer review, as well as various discoverability and impact metric tools.

The fundamental principles of Glasstree are:

  • providing an equitable profit-sharing model for academics and their supporting institutions
  • providing better control and visibility of content
  • the ability for authors and institutions to set the price of their own work
  • a quicker route to market
  • a fairer profit-sharing model (70 per cent of royalties instead of the industry average of nine per cent).

Read the full article at

Jean Roberts is Business Development Director for Glasstree Academic Publishing

When certainties fade: The changing state of academic research into the changing world of news

Innovation everywhere. Innovation in the news business. Innovation in social media. Innovation (and creative destruction!) in presidential political communication. Innovation in the topics and methods of scholarly research. Innovation as a keyword and a buzzword. Innovation as an ideology and a sign of the times.

Things are different, to put it mildly, than they used to be. When we talked over lunch at a 2013 symposium on “Data Crunched Democracy,” organized by Daniel Kreiss and Joseph Turow at the University of Pennsylvania, we could not help but shake our heads at how much had changed since we had started our research into news and journalism. We marveled at how a domain of inquiry that until recently was seen as a somewhat specialized area within the larger field of communication was generating an unprecedented amount of scholarship. All the while, the questions, theories, and methods for studying journalism were also changing, spurred in part by the challenge of the evolving news environment. Yet the frantic pace of knowledge production had somewhat prevented scholars to engage in a collective process of sensemaking about what had been accomplished and what might lie ahead.

Four years later — while much in academia has changed, what has barely been altered is the time it takes to get a book conceived, written, revised, edited, and printed! — we edited Remaking the News, a book that tries to make sense of the past couple of decades of journalism scholarship and imagine new pathways moving forward. We approached some of the most accomplished people we knew who were researching news and asked each of them to write an essay about an aspect of the changes in journalism and the new scholarly opportunities afforded by these transformations. We also asked them reflect on why their arguments mattered to news professionals, scholars, and the public at large. In this article, we share three key lessons we learned as a result of this four-year journey:

  • Alternative modes of telling the story often afford novel arguments while rekindling the passion for the craft.
  • Diversity and conflict are a source of strength and innovation for both newspeople and researchers.
  • Nostalgia, in either journalism or the academy, is not productive; the present moment is ripe for reflecting on the past as a way to imagine new futures.

Expanding the storytelling toolkit

For over a decade, media organizations have been experimenting with alternative modes of presenting information and telling stories. From The New York Times’s exemplary “Snow Fall” to Politico’s recent article on media bubbles, taking advantage of the resources available in the digital environment has become a mantra of the news business. It has pushed journalism in some great directions.

One thing that we learned in the process of putting together Remaking the News is that scholars also ought to find new ways to present information and make a case. In particular, we discovered the renewed potential of the essay format that this edited volume embraces. We do not propose that this become the default genre for scholarly communication. But we found out that it fostered intellectual creativity and joy in ways that we do not normally see in the process of writing the dominant genre, namely the journal article.

These types of articles are to academics what the straight news format is to journalists: effective and easy to write templates that convey the essence of complex arguments to audiences increasingly swamped with information. But like all good formulas, they run the risk of becoming, well, formulaic, and sapping creativity and enjoyment from the craft. They can become, to use an exercise analogy, the treadmill option for runners.

Living in Brooklyn and Evanston, we are both familiar with the pleasures of winter, and know all too well that during the colder months, in order to stay in shape, you have to take the running inside, into the gym and onto the treadmill. Writing a peer-reviewed journal article, in our experience, has increasingly become the treadmill running of scholarly writing. It is necessary, practical, beneficial, generates valuable information exchange, and often invites a form of argumentation that serves the process of analysis well. Not doing it would leave you incapable of getting off the couch once winter has drawn to an end.

But it is often overdone. The corporatization of the academy, like the increased bottom-line concerns in the news business, has led to an ever-expanding pressure to publish larger and larger numbers of articles. New journals pop up from one season to the next like wild mushrooms in the forest, and the existing ones move from publishing four times a year to doing it eight times a year. Concurrently, search and promotion committees expect longer lists of publications from scholars. All of this has turned a whole lot of academic life into what Dean Starkman called, referring to the news business, the hamster wheel: It keeps you in shape but takes the fun out of exercising the mind.

Which is why, in part, in the process of editing Remaking the News, we found that writing an essay has become more like a long run through the woods, particularly one you take in the sun on one of the first days of spring. Without getting too maudlin about it, we discovered that by virtue of its fewer genre constraints and its implicit openness, essay writing clears the head, generates creative new approaches to old problems, and gives authors the freedom to draw on our earlier exercise regimen — that is, the journal articles that have been put through their disciplinary paces — in order to push scholarship in new directions. As editors, it was remarkable to see the level of enthusiasm, commitment, and risk-taking among our authors — something which is quite different from what we experience and hear about the journal publishing process.

Just as journalists are embracing new ways of telling the story, then, we encourage academics to think about new ways of making a case and communicating their ideas. We encourage hiring and promotion committees to adapt their practices accordingly. The digital age has seen an explosion in different communication modalities and platforms. Much of this work goes beyond the essay format, of course, ranging from social media writing to the interactive visualization work increasingly common in the digital humanities. We would like to see more of all of it.

These alternatives should not be seen as subservient to the journal article genre — in the same way that interactive storytelling is not subservient to straight-news, inverted pyramid storytelling. We are not saying that academics ought to dispense with their treadmill workouts…er, with their journal articles. But we are saying that it is important to take alternative modes of communication seriously and value their contributions in their own right. Different forms of academic, and journalistic, writing complement each other in unique and productive ways. There is much intellectual creativity and personal engagement that can arise from expanding the storytelling toolkit.

Embracing diversity

We live in diverse societies and therefore conflict is to a certain extent unavoidable. This applies to both the academy and journalism. Reporters and editors routinely choose between different stories. Even within a single story, they often hear different sides of it; sometimes the versions are complementary, while other times they can be polar opposites.

To cope with this diversity, research on newsmaking conducted since the 1970s has documented a tendency among journalists to privilege certain stories over others, as well as certain sources and accounts within an article. Social scientists are not different: We have our preferred topics, theories, and methods. We sometimes accept alternative approaches as equally productive, but on other occasions think ours is the best and even that the alternatives are plainly wrong.

To counter the shortcomings of a tendency to narrow down diversity that he observed in his landmark studies of news work, Herbert Gans proposed in 1979 the notion of “multiperspectivism.” Gans offered a very concrete set of proposals back then, and he updated them in a thoughtful essay published in 2011. But beyond the specifics of both texts, Gans’ idea is that journalists would do well by incorporating an orientation towards broadening the set of topics and voices represented in the news. By implication, this also meant housing competing viewpoints within the news report in inclusive rather than agonistic manner. In our approach to the volume, we were inspired by the notion of multiperspectivism and tried to include a broad spectrum of intellectual orientations. We also thought that any potential conflicts and disagreements that could arise were a potential source of intellectual innovation.

Two areas of diversity and disagreement in the book are worth highlighting for this article. The first one has to do with the tensions between disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of news — this is mirrored, to a certain degree, in the tensions between journalists and technologists in contemporary newsmaking. The second is between knowledge generated primarily with applied goals in mind, or mainly for scholarly purposes.

Regarding the tension between “disciplinary” and “interdisciplinary” approaches, scholars in the first group (to generalize broadly) often frame their intellectual arguments in relationship to other pieces of scholarship that also focus on journalism. They often attempt to generalize about their findings in ways that allow them to build a common theoretical apparatus and advance the state of knowledge about the news. These scholars are building a discipline while making knowledge; thus they have an investment in the institutional vitality of the news media as a source of legitimation of their scholarly enterprise.

The second group of scholars in the book, conversely, seemed more interested in “studies of journalism” rather than in journalism studies. These writers usually framed their journalism research as a case of something else — new media, political communication, cultural studies, and so on. Often, the chapters addressed other literatures as much as they addressed scholarship on the news. They also tended to include arguments for outward disciplinary connections rather than inward disciplinary growth, using journalism as a way of shedding light on cross-cutting social processes and phenomena.

Instead of fostering confrontation or falling into the trap of adjudication, we favored a stance of welcoming these diverse approaches. We tried to make visible their different assumptions and fostered productive conversations among the various perspectives. In the academy as much as in journalism, the goal of multiperspectivism is to turn what David Stark has called “creative friction” into new ways of seeing the world.

A second area of diversity and conflict present in the volume is between scholars who produce action-oriented media research and thinkers who conduct what some philosophers of science call “basic research.” This area cuts across the professional worlds of academics and journalists, since the former type of research is sometimes done either in part to engage professionals or wholly within industry and think tanks. It is also an old area of disagreement among both social scientists and journalists.

In our book, it is addressed primarily in the chapters by Talia Stroud and Matt Hindman. Stroud focuses on the distinction between studies that help the bottom line and those that help the quality of democratic life. She argues that the tension between “democratically-useful and industry-useful research is often overdrawn, and even when it exists, that this conflict can be productive,” thus concludes by offering alternatives that satisfy both research aims. In a related vein, rather than bemoaning journalists’ use of reader metrics or claiming that this use somehow debases or diminishes journalism, Hindman accepts metric deployment as a given and tries to discover an ethical use for them. Both Hindman and Stroud problematize critical and practical approaches to the study of news, therefore showing how diversity becomes a source of conceptual innovation.

Dispensing with nostalgia

Social scientists, like journalists, are in the business of sensemaking: finding out information about important phenomena and accounting for what happens in ways that are truthful and relevant to our publics. Academics, unlike journalists, study these phenomena but also build theories trying to find the logic behind them. The topics we choose and how we explain them tend to be shaped by the times we live in. So during the third quarter of the 20th century, when the industrialized mass media system was at its peak, scholars focused on issues such as the ability of the press to tell citizens which news stories to talk about, and the commingling of mass and interpersonal communication in shaping the effects of media on society. What emerged from that scholarly focus were both knowledge about media, culture, and politics and theoretical notions like agenda setting and the two-step model of influence.

In the social sciences, theories tend to have an inertia of their own by helping frame the process of inquiry long after the historical conditions that led to their development change. During periods of historical discontinuity, and especially at the beginning of them, this leads to a nostalgic reflex that is both scholarly and normative: The new phenomena are made sense with theoretical approaches from the past — they are the only ones we have at our disposal at the time, after all — and their implications are assessed, often negatively, in comparison to what was the norm before. Thus a sizeable portion of the scholarship on online news has applied notions like agenda setting and the two-step model to the current environment and has found that it is much more difficult for the press to set the agenda now than before, and that the ascent of social media to the pinnacle of power in the new media ecology has added layers of complexity to the relatively simple two-stage process of influence. This has been tied to common normative assessments yearning for the glorious Watergate days, when the press could supposedly focus people’s attention on what was important and Facebook and Twitter did not pollute the public sphere with a tsunami of fake news.

The problem with this kind of nostalgic stance is that it obliterates both theoretical imagination and practical possibilities. Overcoming nostalgia does not mean doing away with the conceptual tools and normative ideals of the past. It means not taking them for granted, and instead revisiting them in ways that do justice to the unique characteristics and potentials of the contemporary moment. For instance, how does the fact that most people access digital news from social media platforms and search engines affect the power of agenda setting by news organizations? Does the rise of personal publics on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter affect the influence exerted by co-located interpersonal networks and, if so, shouldn’t we think about a three-step flow, instead of the two-step process outlined by Katz and Lazarsfeld 60 years ago?

Yes, the golden days of the industrialized mass media system played a part in Watergate. But would that system have contributed to the Black Lives Matter movement with the same efficacy that the use of social media platforms by activists and the public at large did? And while it is possible that the contemporary mix of news and social media contributed to a rise in the volume of false information during the 2016 electoral cycle in the United States, this mix has also been credited with contributing to loosen oppressive information regimes as in the case of the Arab spring. We need to assess both sides of the coin concurrently.

Nostalgia provides reassurance and self-gratification, but it is also intellectually and socially stultifying. It is time to move on, make sense of the present by learning from history, not by clinging to it, in order to help shape more productive futures.

When certainties fade

If there is a common thread that cuts across these lessons about the value of diversity, the vitality of expanded storytelling options, and the importance of dispensing with a nostalgic stance is that they all challenge the certainties associated with homogeneous viewpoints, writing genres, explanatory models, and normative ideals. There is nothing inherently wrong with certainty; it can be quite productive, in particular during a period of historical stability.

But, going back to the opening of this article, the contemporary context is marked by rapid and widespread innovation, including in the research about, and practice of, journalism. In the words that Michel Foucault penned for The Order of Things and that anchored the introduction of our volume, this context “restor[es] to our silent and apparently immobile soil its rifts, its instability, its flaws; and it is the same ground that is once more stirring under our feet.” This feeling of great transformations can be unsettling and paralyzing, yet also exhilarating and liberating.

Above all, it reminds us that we are in the driver’s seat, and that perhaps we might not have the luxury of relying a whole lot on the routines and institutions that served us so well during the second half of the twentieth century. A renewed sense of agency might actually be the ultimate beauty of writing about our digital age.

C.W. Anderson is an associate professor at the College of Staten Island (CUNY) and the CUNY Graduate Center. Pablo J. Boczkowski is a professor in the School of Communication at Northwestern University.

Photo by HAT Triathlon used under a Creative Commons license.

How to market your journal without spending a fortune

Is your journal famous enough? It can be, even on a small marketing budget.

Marketing your journal is vital to its success. Your journal’s fame is key. If people don’t know about your journal, they won’t read, submit or cite it. Journal brands are important and you need to invest in yours, but it needn’t cost the earth. Here are some tips:

First do this

Before anything, work out who you are targeting (should be pretty easy) and set some key performance indicators (KPIs). For open access journals, your primary objective should be to attract the greatest number of quality articles that you can. Even if you don’t charge an article processing charge:

no authors =no papers = no readers = no journal!

Setting KPIs ensures you are on target to reach this goal. KPIs can be unique to your journal, but common ones include:

  • Number of visitors to the guide for authors page (shows interest in submitting)
  • Article downloads
  • Time on the website
  • Number of table of contents e-alert registrants
  • Pre-submission enquiries
  • Click throughs from your emails

You can measure these using various analytical packages. Google Analytics is free and can be set up quite easily with a little technical knowledge.

Google Analytics

Open access marketing

I have heard some talk that marketing open access journals is different. This is true in a certain respect, as you don’t need to worry about subscriptions. However, most journals require a significant amount of author marketing to get them going, regardless of their business model. This type of marketing is no different for open access journals. If you have a successful journal editorially, you will have a successful journal.

Mobilise your team

The best and most cost-effective way to promote your journal is through your editorial boards. They are engaged with your journal and can expand reach easily through their networks and conference attendance. Think of your board as the personification of your journal. Make sure they are contacted frequently and feel part of the team (keep them interested). Make it easy for your board to work for you, give them packs, powerpoint slides, fliers and journal-branded business cards. Don’t overwhelm them though. Too much, too fast and they won’t do it — nurture that relationship.

Think of your board as the personification of your journal.

#Tweet tweet

I’m sure you have a journal profile on Twitter. If not, quickly, go now and set one up at We can wait.

OK, back now? Good, let’s continue…

Twitter profiles cost nothing and let you grow a decent amount of followers pretty quickly. The best journal profiles are managed by someone with credibility in and knowledge of the field (e.g. an editor). It’s good to give your Twitter feed at least a bit of personality and to actively engage with other users. If you do you will grow your following more quickly and it won’t look like your feed is run by a robot.

Don’t be afraid to tweet content from other competitor’s journals. This helps build your feed as a resource for the community and, in turn, increases the visibility of your journal. Your Twitter feed is a good conduit to your community, showing what you are doing and where you are heading.

Retweet interesting content and participate in conversations. You can find relevant topics as people hashtag (#) them. Search under the relevant hashtag and then tag your content similarly to participate.

Hashtags are also good for conferences as they bring together conversations around talks. By joining the conversation or reporting what has been said, you can gain good visibility and show that you are an interested and authoritative source of information in the field.

Hashtags are also good for conferences as they bring together conversations around talks.

Lastly on Twitter, you can also buy promoted tweets, which will show up in feeds that match your selection criteria. These aren’t that costly and do allow you to target feeds of influencers, competitors etc. In my experience they don’t work as well as Facebook advertising and the interface for placing them is not great, but try it as it can be done on a small budget.

Don’t discount Facebook!

Many people think that Facebook is a great place for photos of, say, little Scotty’s first steps, but it’s not a place for research. It’s true that Facebook is not used for research in the ways that ResearchGate or even LinkedIn are. However, researchers obviously have ‘real’ lives away from the lab and (surprise, surprise), like everyone else, they use Facebook. If done right, Facebook can be a good vehicle for reaching your audience.

Facebook really comes into its own as a highly targeted advertising platform.

A word of caution with Facebook. Much has been said about Facebook engaging customers with your brand and starting conversations. Forget this, even Facebook knows this doesn’t work for brands (don’t believe me see this on the Pepsi Refresh Project). Yes, set up a product page (it’s free) as you will have content that will get some traffic, but Facebook really comes into its own as a highly targeted advertising platform. It’s reach is vast and you can drill down to target researchers by location, subject area etc. For about £50 you can generate some great click throughs to your site. If you do have some budget, give it a go. Make sure you test different types of ads — here’s a good article as to what makes a good Facebook ad.

Facebook is good, but you do need to spend.

Reports of email’s death have been greatly exaggerated

I keep reading that email is dead, but we all know it is not! Yes, there are numerous other tools for communicating, but email is platform neutral and is still used by mostly everyone. Embrace it, it is a key way to contact your audience.

If you haven’t already, start to build a mailing list for your journal. You need to offer registrants something to sign up to and the easiest thing is a journal table of contents (ToC) e-alert.

Please do check data protection laws before setting up an email list.

You will need a way to collect the emails and a way to send out an alert. This is easy to do through programmes such as MailChimp, which is also free for the basic package. People still like to get content delivered this way to browse what’s coming up and it can help your article traffic. Make signing up as easy as possible by having a link on each article page, so that people don’t have to just chance upon it.

Please do check data protection laws before setting up an email list. Collect only the information you really need and ensure you tell people why people are signing up and what you are going to do with their data. If people sign up for a ToC alert, unless you have asked them specifically, that’s all they should get. I’m not going to go into data protection laws here as they vary from region to region, but there are fines if you don’t adhere to them. Below are some useful links. Please respect people’s data.

UK Data Protection Act
Canadian Data Protection
European General Data Protection Regulation

Start a blog

If you think I’m writing this for my health, then you are sadly mistaken. Regardless of how useful you find it (which I hope is very useful!), I’m writing this for one reason and one reason only, to promote Veruscript. If you learn a little along the way then that is great. However, I am writing to primarily inform you that Veruscript offers a very cost-effective, risk-free way to launch journals. By telling you about marketing techniques that will help build your journal, I’m hoping I will inspire you to launch a journal and consider our service as option for that new journal (or think about transferring an existing journal to us).

This blog also helps us improve our visibility and page ranking on Google. Marketing is a hot topic for journals and when people search for this topic now, we will stand a better chance of showing up.

You should do the same. Start a blog, fill it with relevant information that you think will be useful to your audience. This will increase your authority on your subject area and help your search engine optimisation (SEO). If you are going to do this though, please remember to promote your journal somewhere in each post. There is no point otherwise.

Speaking of SEO

Your SEO is important, make sure all the metatags are appropriate and look to work with other friendly organisations/partners to offer mutual links to and from your sites. In Google’s eyes this improves the trust and relevance of your site and helps you move up their list. Extra direct traffic may also come from the sites that link to you. Obviously make sure any mutual links are relevant and only use trusted sites or you will annoy your users and could damage your reputation.

I found you on Wikipedia…

Having an up-to-date Wikipedia page has it’s uses. Although links from there won’t increase your SEO status (as they are no-follow links), Wikipedia pages on a topic or product rank highly in Google. Definitely set a page up and make sure it is up-to-date. Remember to check it regularly to ensure that no one has put anything untrue up. Also, make sure you clearly identify your association with the journal when editing your page.

And if you are Mr/Mrs/Miss Money Bags…

Lastly, if you have some budget, Google Adwords is a pretty cost-effective way to promote content. The targeting is great and you can set the budgets really tightly — you also only pay per click, so can control your spend. Your ads hit people at the point when they are most interested, so it is a good way to attract them to your journal.

Google Adwords

Now you’ve read the above, go away and test everything!

I hope you have found this post useful. Digital marketing makes testing things a lot easier, so if you take one thing away from this post, make sure it is this: test everything, What works best for me, might not work so well for you, so don’t take my word for what’s best. Look into A/B testing (different versions of a marketing piece going to the same audience) and try out different types of copy — headlines, long vs short copy etc. See which version wins and then test against that. It’s not much extra hassle and helps improve your marketing. Here are some useful links on testing:

In Summary

That’s my quick run through on the marketing of journals. These techniques have worked for me, but please don’t take my work for it and make sure you test, testtest!

Comments are welcome. I would love to hear the results of some of your tests, so I can steal your ideas for Veruscript (kidding, sort of!?).

Best of luck with your journal and remember (as I’m on their payroll) that Veruscript helps you to launch and run your own journals at a fraction of the cost of other publishers. In fact the best way to try out my tips is by launching a journal with us. Don’t worry — there is no risk financially, as we don’t invoice until we publish an article, meaning you get the money in the bank from article processing charges before you pay us.

Find out how you can publish your own journal for just £300 per article.

How to market your journal without spending a fortune was originally published in Veruscript News on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

What an academic hoax can teach us about journalism in the age of Trump

Call it, if you like, a replication experiment. Twenty-one years ago, the New York University physicist Alan Sokal attempted to prove that the influence of postmodern ways of thinking in the humanities had reached the point where academic nonsense was indistinguishable from academic sense. As a physicist, Sokal found writing about science to be particularly offensive, and he submitted a “hoax” paper to the important academic journal Social Text titled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Sokal was conducting an experiment to see if “a leading North American journal of cultural studies — whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross — [would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.” They did.

A few days ago, scholars Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay, in their words, published “‘The conceptual penis as a social construct,’ a Sokal-style hoax on gender studies.”

The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal.

Journalism and the post-truth society

There is an academic context to all this silliness, both in the abstract (various arguments about truth and various “posts” — post-truth, post-modernism, post-structuralism, etc.) and driven by real events (there are many I could point to, but googling “Tuvel controversy” or just clicking here will give you a good sense of what’s going on).

But there’s a way all this stuff actually matters for journalism, too, and it has to do with the arguments we’ve having about facts, fake news, Donald Trump, and the people who voted for him, despite all the factual evidence presented that they might be making a bad decision. The best summary of this whole conversation can be found in an article in Nieman Reports and another one in Vox. The Vox piece draws on an earlier piece by former Politico editor Susan Glasser to argue:

While there was plenty of great political journalism this cycle — all those stories about Trump’s bogus charity, his history of scams and bankruptcies, his record as a sexual predator — it “didn’t seem to matter,” Glasser says. The signal was lost in the ideological noise…she is right to see it as an institutional problem, a matter of authority and legitimacy. Facts do not, contra common belief, speak for themselves. Accuracy doesn’t matter unless there are institutions and norms with the authority to make it matter. The question for the press is how to make truth matter again.

What unites the hermeneutics of quantum gravity, the conceptual penis, and Trump is a general feeling amongst a great many people that goes something like this: Facts don’t matter any more. It’s all opinion. We can’t know what truth is, and we are all just running around trying to get more power for ourselves or our political parties or our conceptual theories. It’s all post-truth, whether journalism or science. And this feeling has also prompted a backlash amongst the scientists of the world, prompting the rise of what the conservative science journal The New Atlantis calls “the cult of science.”

The infrastructures of truth

Does life determine consciousness? Or does consciousness determine life? In other words, does the way the world is set up — its economics, its politics, its institutional arrangements — determine how we think about things, or does how we think about things to some degree determine the way the world gets set up? This is an old argument, at least as old (if not older) than when Marx first gave his answer to the question in a book called The German Ideology. The relevance of this question to the current conversation about post-truth politics is this: Can we reverse the trend? Can we stop what seems like the descent of the Western world into irrationality and tribalism? Should we focus on changing human consciousness, or on the structures that underlie this consciousness?

Because here’s an important point: The “conceptual penis” hoax of 2017 was not a replication of the Sokal hoax of 1996. In fact, the editors of the journal that Boghossian and Lindsay originally submitted the article to, NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies, rejected the article, pointing the authors instead to Cogent Social Sciences, a pay-to-publish predatory journal with far lower standards of peer review. This leads Boghossian and Lindsay to claim that their hoax demonstrated two “problems damaging the credibility of the peer-review system in fields such as gender studies:

(1) the echo-chamber of morally driven fashionable nonsense coming out of the postmodernist social “sciences” in general, and gender studies departments in particular and

(2) the complex problem of pay-to-publish journals with lax standards that cash in on the ultra-competitive publish-or-perish academic environment. At least one of these sicknesses led to “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” being published as a legitimate piece of academic scholarship, and we can expect proponents of each to lay primary blame upon the other.

Notice something here? The first problem is a cultural one (“fashionable nonsense”) while the second one is a structural one (“the complex problem of pay-to-publish journals with lax standards that cash in on the ultra-competitive publish-or-perish academic environment”). And this has implications for how we approach the problems of “fake news” and “post-truth” in journalism as well.

Do we live in a world that has become fundamentally unmoored from reality? This is the cultural explanation for the political crisis that grips America in general and journalism in particular. The problem lies with human nature, argues Fortune writer Mathew Ingram. “The problem is…us,” writes danah boyd in a brilliant column on why Facebook and Google can’t solve the fake news problem alone.

The puzzles made visible through “fake news” are hard. They are socially and culturally hard. They force us to contend with how people construct knowledge and ideas, communicate with others, and construct a society. They are also deeply messy, revealing divisions and fractures in beliefs and attitudes. And that means that they are not technically easy to build or implement.

And yet: The world has changed a great deal since Alan Sokal first published his hoax in Social Text. There were fewer predatory academic journals of the kind we’ve come to recognize today. Fox News, for heavens sake, was barely a year old! The World Wide Web was 2. Mark Zuckerberg was 12. Jack Dorsey was still in college. The technologies that allowed our post-truth society to take hold in the way it has hadn’t really been invented in any meaningful way.

The problem, in other words, may not be that we — as either academics, humanists, journalists, or citizens — have lost our grip on reality in some cultural or philosophical or human way. The problem may be less human nature and more that the epistemological systems designed to facilitate the deployment of reason and truth in politics and academia are failing us. The “conceptual penis” article was, after all, rejected. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and newsrooms exist as actual organizations with policies and technologies, not simply as an outgrowth of human nature. They are infrastructures — infrastructures which are part of a cultural and symbolic system, but infrastructures nonetheless. Scholars who study infrastructures (whether of the journalistic or academic kind) know that changing them is hard. But they are easier to change than human nature. The least we can do, in that case, is try.

C.W. Anderson is an associate professor at the College of Staten Island (CUNY) and the CUNY Graduate Center.

Photo illustration based on a Stuart Rankin vector of an illustration from an 1894 issue of Puck.

Academia Introduces a Premium Account

Readers, Mentions, Advanced Search, and Expanded Analytics

Academia’s mission is to get every academic paper ever written on the internet, available for free, and to develop a more rigorous and efficient peer review system. Free access to academic research makes the world a more equitable place, and rigorous and efficient peer review accelerates the pace of scientific and scholarly research. Continue reading “Academia Introduces a Premium Account”

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