Starting an Online Publication

From E-Learning Faculty Modules


Contents

Module Summary

On the face of it, setting up an online publication seems fairly low-cost and simple. After all, there are free publishing software (such as for wikis or blogs). Purchasing online space and a URL is negligible cost-wise. There are even platforms that are free-to-users as hosted platforms. The technological enablements are broad for including a wide range of multimedia and integrations with social media platforms. The potential for reaching a wide audience is broad, given the power of the Web and Internet. This article addresses some the basics for starting an online publication (for academic purposes).

Takeaways

Learners will...

  • consider what it takes to start and maintain an online publication (including technologies and workflows)
  • think about the importance of an environmental scan for the particular topic-of-interest
  • review whether the publication should be “formal” or “informal”
  • review the basics of “media law” considerations for publications
  • consider the importance of maintaining important stakeholder groups, including authors and readers

Module Pretest

1. What does it take to start an online publication? What are some technological considerations? What are the typical workflows?

2. What is an environmental scan, and why is it important to conduct one before starting an online publication? What important information should be collected from the environmental scan before pursuing the creation of an online publication?

3. What is the difference between a “formal” online publication and an “informal” one? What features should be considered in terms of whether a publication should be formal or informal? What is an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)?

4. What are some basics of media law considerations for publications?

5. Why is it important to maintain important stakeholder groups, such as authors and readers?

Main Contents

The main contents follow:

1. What does it take to start an online publication? What are some technological considerations? What are the typical workflows?

One truism for writers is that they should start out as readers first. In the same way, those who would be online publishers would do well to be readers, writers, and editors first—to learn the ropes and gain a sense of the environment.

Conceptualizing the publication. To start an online publication, it helps to begin with a sense of purpose. What will the online publication cover? What social benefits will the publication offer? Who will be its contributors? Who will be its writers? Who will be its readers? What will be the name of the publication? What will be its statement of purpose? How will it be designed to appeal to its contributors and readers?

Technological platform . What sort of Web-based platform will be used for the publication? Is it possible for role definitions on this site—to enable access by authors, reviewers, editors, graphic designers, developers, and others who are required for the publishing? Is the site sufficiently usable to train others in its usage? Does the site have sufficient robustness and security measures to ensure protection of the data? (Are the policies for use in alignment with the interests of the publishers?) Are there technologies to enable tracking of usage of the site (as a site feature…or is there ability to add Google Analytics)? Is the platform going to be around for a sufficient amount of time and in that form? If the technology discontinues, is it possible to salvage the contents and move them to another site?

Commercial or non-commercial? Will the publication be a commercial one or a non-commercial one? (Commercial publications need to be registered as parts of business entities.)

Typical workflows: In a typical publication cycle, an issue-based theme is announced on various electronic mailing lists, websites, social media sites, conference programs, and other online places. In the “call for articles,” the publishers also describe the standards for publication. Researchers and authors are asked to submit their work by deadline.

Works are then reviewed, and feedback is provided to the respective authors. Selected works are revised and prepared for publication. The publications are formally rolled out in a “hard launch,” with formal announcements and attention-getting fanfare.

In some cases, formal publications’ contents may be included in indexes if they are of sufficient quality for the indexers. Works are also indexed by web browser-based search engines, which increase the findability of the publication. Works are generally archived by the publishers on their platform.

Then, the next cycle of publication starts again.


2. What is an environmental scan, and why is it important to conduct one before starting an online publication? What important information should be collected from the environmental scan before pursuing the creation of an online publication?

An “environmental scan” refers to a review of the relevant aspects of a particular context. An environmental scan for the purposes of a new online publication may include the following:

  • an assessment of the existing publications on the target topic, their quality, their leadership, their funding, the typical contents, the technologies used, the publishing cycles, the publishing standards, and so on
  • gaps in coverage of the subject domain (to complement the existing information there)
  • and possibly what value-added may be brought by a new publication.

It is also important to capture a sense of interest in a new publication. Are there sufficient contributors and “creatives” willing to contribute? Is there sufficient readership to buoy a new publication?

If there is a current publication that is not performing sufficiently well, new publishers may go head-to-head with those existing publications by offering a better product.

While publishing is not zero-sum, there are expensive inputs that are required to produce a quality work. While online publications are often free, on the back end, the publishers and editors have to enable the work somehow…even if they are not going the commercial route. Sometimes, such work is part of academic (or corporate) responsibilities. However an online publication is funded, there has to be some sponsorship somewhere. Good will only takes a work so far.


3. What is the difference between a “formal” online publication and an “informal” one? What features should be considered in terms of whether a publication should be formal or informal? What is an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)?

A formal announced publication generally has an ISSN number or an International Standard Serial Number, an internationally recognized code linked to the title of serial publications, like journals, magazines, newspapers, and so on. This unique identifier number enables tracking of serial publications and contents. (For more on how to acquire an ISSN, please visit the following site: http://www.issn.org/services/requesting-an-issn/.)

Formal publications also often usually have formal editors, named editorial boards, and funders.

Less formal online publications often do not have ISSN numbers, and their contents are not often indexed. The staff of such publications tend to be volunteers. The deadlines and processes for informal publications may not be as strict as for formal publications.


4. What are some basics of media law considerations for publications?

Whether an online publication is formal or informal, to be successful, it has to abide by the applicable laws. By default, the moment an online publication is available on the Web and Internet, it has been released globally, which adds a layer of complexity since laws differ between nations. Also, if an online publication is commercial (and accepts ads), the intellectual property rules differ than for non-commercial publications.

Some laws to pay attention to include the following:

  • intellectual property
  • privacy rights
  • defamation laws
  • recording laws (such as “one-party consent” or “two-party consent”), and others

It is important to follow the rules of source citation for the particular domain as well.

The contents here are necessarily incomplete, but these ideas are offered as a start.


5. Why is it important to maintain important stakeholder groups, such as authors and readers?

An online publication’s survival depends on its contributors (particularly researchers and authors) and its readership (its audience). The contributors bring fresh research to the publication, and the readers provide the informed and educated audience that the contributors seek. An academic online publication’s rai·son d'ê·tre is to serve the needs of both of these important stakeholder groups.

There may be other stakeholders as well. An online publication may have professional allies in the larger academic and commercial community.

Examples

There are many examples out there…so do explore!

How To

The step-by-step “how to” will depend on a variety of factors. The basic steps are outlined above, but the finer points are too variant to include here.

Possible Pitfalls

Online publications can be fairly ephemeral, particularly those without foundational supports: vision, leadership, clear planning, and resources. There are also the risks of falling afoul of media laws (such as by contravening intellectual property rights, privacy rights, reputational rights, and so on).

Module Post-Test

1. What does it take to start an online publication? What are some technological considerations? What are the typical workflows?

2. What is an environmental scan, and why is it important to conduct one before starting an online publication? What important information should be collected from the environmental scan before pursuing the creation of an online publication?

3. What is the difference between a “formal” online publication and an “informal” one? What features should be considered in terms of whether a publication should be formal or informal? What is an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)?

4. What are some basics of media law considerations for publications?

5. Why is it important to maintain important stakeholder groups, such as authors and readers?

References

Extra Resources

Creative Commons Search https://search.creativecommons.org/


Requesting an ISSN http://www.issn.org/services/requesting-an-issn/