bar graph of pink carnations at different stages of flowering

How do presses measure journal performance?

What metrics do publishers use to understand how a journal is doing? What metrics do publishers consider when developing their journals or acquiring an established journal from another publisher?

We look at a similar set of metrics both when we are looking at developing a journal currently in our program and when we are looking to add new journals to our program.

  • Usage data: Foremost, we are interested in metrics relating to online usage, as they give us a snapshot how well a journal’s content is reaching its intended end-users. We want to see who is interacting with certain topics, which countries and institutions are accessing the most or least, and whether there are specific issues or articles that are particularly popular. This feedback gives us valuable insight into how people are using the journal and whether there are new avenues or topics to explore that are interesting to our readers. When evaluating whether to add an already-existing journal to our program, we look at similar metrics to determine whether that journal is relevant to its field and to determine whether we should acquire the journal and what areas we would like to improve once we publish it.
  • Indexes: We also look at which indexes our current or prospective journals are included in. Indexes such as Web of Science have rigorous evaluation processes that require, among other criteria, that the journal is regularly cited in other journals in the field and that issues are consistently released on schedule. When a journal passes this screening and is invited for inclusion, we know we are on the right track. If a journal isn’t accepted, then we take a look at where we need to improve. Being included in these indexes allows the journal to be discoverable to a wider audience.
  • Altmetrics: We also pay attention to how often our journal articles are cited in nonscholarly communication outlets, such as on social media or in the news. With DOI (Digital Object Identifier) linking now the norm, it has become easier to track where content is being cited across the internet. Much like usage data, this information gives us important insights into which topics or features our readers are finding most valuable.
  • Editorial Board and Author Composition: Another aspect we consider in evaluating the health of our journals is the makeup of the editorial board and contributing authors. We want to make sure that key journal players have varied focuses of study and are from varied backgrounds and institutions. Encouraging a diverse and inclusive editorial board and a similarly diverse range of authors helps ensure that our journals are connecting with and welcoming as broad a network as possible, and helps avoid situations where the same perspectives are published over and over again.
  • Acquisitions metrics: When we acquire a journal from another publisher, we look at access numbers and subscribers. However, there is more to the calculation to acquire a journal than numbers. We also look at whether a journal’s scope fits into our mission and catalog. One way to see if a press might have interest in acquiring your journal is to take a look at the conferences that they participate in and other works that they have published.

—Michigan State University Press, February 2021