Diversifying revenue in publishing - how Future Science Group uses online communities to drive new income

In our new case study, Zapnito customer Future Science Group reveals how their specialist communities have helped them engage with researchers and diversify revenue.

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Future Science Group (FSG) is a progressive publisher focused on breakthrough medical, biotechnological and scientific research. They were also one of Zapnito’s first customers, and over the years, their input has helped to shape the platform into what it is today.

Back in November, when I was still relatively new to Zapnito, I heard FSG’s Managing Director Phil Garner speak at an ALPSP Seminar on Innovation in Publishing. His explanation of how FSG has used its communities to significantly diversify their revenue immediately struck me as a story we needed to tell.

Luckily for me, Phil was very happy to share his insights for our new case study, which you can download in full here. This post also covers some of the key points.

The need to diversify revenue

One question that needs addressing, before we dive in, is why do publishers need to diversify? You may well have a pretty clear idea on this already, but I think it’s worth quoting former Wiley CEO Mark Allin here:

“Consumers of content can now interact directly with each other and share information and data in new and powerful ways. Authors can self-publish, crowdfund/crowdsource and market directly to readers. Publishers risk losing their fundamental reason for existing, unless they can create new value for authors and consumers.”

(In case you’re wondering, he said that in our whitepaper on Connected Publishing.)

This need has become particularly apparent in scholarly publishing in recent months, following the announcement from a coalition of European research funders (cOAlition S) that they will require immediate open access to all of the scientific publications resulting from their support effective 1 January 2020.

This plan - known as Plan S - is likely to disproportionately hurt smaller publishers and the selective journals that many societies publish. These typically have high costs per article and the worry is that Plan S's fee cap, which has yet to be set, will be too low to cover the average cost per paper. What's more, societies typically have lower profit margins and a smaller economy of scale than the commercial publishers.

While there is still much to be done in directly working for a fair implementation of Plan S, it seems clear that publishers - both large and small - need to be considering further diversification of income streams.

What have FSG done?

“Thanks to our communities, a significant proportion of our revenue is now coming from advertising and sponsored thought leadership.”

-Phil Garner, Managing Director, Future Science Group

Subscription and open access publishing has always been FSG’s core business model, but in 2014 they began looking at new ways to diversify revenue.

In the past five years, they have used our platform to develop specialist expert communities and content hubs, enabling research professionals to easily connect and collaborate with their peers in niche scientific fields.

Not only has this helped FSG to build relationships directly with their target audiences, but by using Zapnito’s integrated advertising options and developing a sponsored content programme, they’ve turned the communities into a significant revenue stream for the group.

FSG has created four distinct communities using our SaaS platform. The communities are largely based on content created by the community users and are designed to allow members to collaborate, showcase their work, and share their news and perspectives.

Content across the communities includes free educational webinars, expert opinion and insight, and exclusive peer-reviewed journal articles, as well as the latest news and advances in specific fields of research.

The FSG communities

Of course, probably the best way to get insight into how FSG is running its communities is by looking at them. Here are links to all the sites - if you have a chance, spend some time looking through.

RegMedNet is a network for the regenerative medicine community, partnered with FSG’s journal, Regenerative Medicine.

3DMedNet is a community site that unites the diverse medical 3D printing community, seeking to educate and inspire to help this exciting field move forward at an even faster rate.

RxNet is an online community uniting scientists from the fields of chemistry, biochemistry and beyond. Its aim is to further drug discovery and development.

This community is linked to FSG’s associated journals - Future Drug Discovery (coming soon), Future Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Patent Analyst and Therapeutic Delivery, and aims to provide current research and information on all aspects of the drug discovery pipeline.

BioTechniques Talk is the most recently launched FSG community, BioTechniques Talk is linked to their journal BioTechniques.

It’s a community designed to allow laboratory researchers to quickly and easily ask other experts in their field for help troubleshooting methods, techniques and protocols, share experiences, prompt discussion and build a network.

Why did they choose Zapnito?

We’re not the only platform FSG could have chosen to deliver these communities, so why did they choose us?

“It’s so quick and easy to get a site launched,” said Phil Garner, when we spoke. “If we have an idea, we could have a new community launched in days. The only delay is creating the content - all the development is taken care of.

“It stops web development being daunting and delivers proven end-user engagement. The platform picks out some really key things, and does them very well.”

You can download the full case study to take away and share. Or if you’re interested in finding out more about setting up your own community, why not have a chat with one of our Solutions Executives?

Go to the profile of Kam Arkinstall

Kam Arkinstall

Advisor, Zapnito

I've worked in marketing and communications for over a decade, with experience in the charity sector, STM publishing, and agency-side for a variety of clients. In that time I've done everything from brand development to media relations. But my real passion is for all things digital, particularly content marketing and social media. Love: strategy, plain English, tea. Hate: corporate jargon.

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