Monday, September 10, 2007

Medical Journals for Free

Where can the medical world learn about the latest practices and technology and know that these articles are valid and have been peer reviewed? The answer has been the very successful STM journal market. A great business model where in the main the material is given to the publisher , its reviewed for free and then sold at often high ticket prioces back to the institutions. We all know that the publisher is essential to this process and that the value reflects the quality of the material, its currency and authority.

Open Access has been steadily gaining ground and has questioned why material can’t be free to all after a period of time, let alone on release. According to Manhattan Research, the number of visits by physicians to online medical journals has increased 27% over the last two years, while readers of the printed versions declined 14%. So the switch to online is very real but pricing has always been and remains a thorny issue, but now comes news that times may be changing. Elsevier’s medical and scientific journal business is profitable, but revenue is flat and with online readership growing faster than print subscriptions the obvious question is how can you change the business model? Interestingly with only a very small amount of pharmaceutical marketing spend being online and with much more still going to consumer advertising on television and to reps who visit doctors there is the answer.

Reed Elsevier who publish more than 400 medical and scientific journals, has now introduced,, that gives doctors free access to the latest articles from 100 of its own pricey medical journals which include The Lancet. It plans to change its business model from a subscription one to an advertising based model. It will ask professional readers to register their personal information and preferences and in exchange will give them immediate access to the latest related articles. Elsevier hopes to sign up 150,000 professional readers within the next 12 months and to attract advertising and sponsorships from pharmaceutical companies with drugs to sell.

Future sites are obvious and may focus on specialties like neurology, cardiology and infectious diseases.

There may be many questions still to be answered and the final solution may take time to evolve but the shift top the new model poses many opportunities for many publishers and is similar to the path taken by other media channels.