How to Fix a Leaky Heart Valve

Journal publishers have long allowed authors to submit videos to supplement their articles, but an emerging model makes video the main attraction.  Last week Elsevier launched a video journal for gastrointestinal endoscopy, joining a small group of other publishers with video journals in such fields as orthopedics, physics, and psychotherapy.  Most of the video journal publishers also publish conventional written articles as companions to the video.  Like print journals, video journals use various business models.  Most, but not all of the journals are peer reviewed, and most are subscription based.  Unlike most print journals, however, video journals publish on a continuous basis as new “articles” are produced, rather than on a fixed schedule.

Another notable difference is the production process.  When a publisher accepts an author’s submission, the publisher then collaborates with the author to develop a script and then shoots, edits, and produces a professional quality video.  Despite the cost of video production, the economics of video journals looks promising, at least in part because they are born-digital and have no printing or physical distribution costs.  The first video journal, the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), became profitable within a year of its launch in 2008, and revenues were reported to have grown from $3 million to $5 million from 2010 to 2011.  The company now publishes over 60 articles per month, has over 550 subscribing institutions, and receives around 170,000 unique monthly visitors.  JoVE has also demonstrated that its model is scalable:  It has steadily expanded into different domains (currently eight and growing), including neuroscience, bio-engineering, chemistry, clinical medicine, and behavior, among others.

Demand for video journals appears especially strong outside the US, probably because many parts of the world lack access to live training in the latest laboratory or clinical techniques.  JoVE, for example, gets about two-thirds of its traffic from overseas and just one-third from the US, a proportion that would typically be reversed for most professional journals published in the US.

Because video is so effective at communicating how-to knowledge, publishers in a wide range of business, professional, scientific, clinical, and industrial domains are prime candidates to start video journals.  Publishers themselves do not need to make large investments as they can easily contract out to video production firms.  At the same time, the change to a new medium may open the market to new players.  For example, the Video Journal of Ophthalmology and the Video Journal of Orthopaedics are published by companies with no experience in journal publishing.  However, these newcomers will have to demonstrate that their content has legitimacy and quality of content produced through traditional publishers’ peer-review processes.

Video journals are likely to lead to the creation of educational materials and reference databases.  Across education, compilations of videos are growing rapidly as supplements to lectures and live demonstrations, especially because students can view them over and over on their own time.  This ability to apply video journal content to education could open new revenue opportunities for journal publishers to expand from their traditional research market focus.

About Lee Greenhouse

Longtime strategy consultant focused on the business of information content, applications, and services.
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