D.J. McPhee
6 May 2024
Posted inEconomics of Publishing Post authorD.J. McPhee
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Using Vouchers

Using vouchers is often a good idea. Though, sometimes, it might not always make sense. Why would you want to charge less than normal?

People will tend to look at buying products when they have a coupon for it, and submitting to a journal isn’t exactly the same (there are other factors), but money and perceived value are important factors. Here we’ll go over the value of your journal, controlling these factors, as well as vouchers and coupons. And we will also go over how you can use them to improve your business.

What is perceived value?

We’ll start with the question of perceived value. What is it? Perceived value is a completely subjective metric. It is the worth or benefit that a customer believes they will get out of a product. Because this is completely subjective, it not necessarily something that you can plan for. You can, however, have a sense of what it means though. What your customer wants, what they expect, and what they need are factors that affect perceived value.

In short, the more worth that a customer perceives, the more they are willing to pay for it. Many different factors go into creating this value in your customer’s mind, and we will discuss these at a later date, but for now, we’re going to be focusing on three specific factors:

  1. Quality;
  2. Brand reputation;
  3. Price.

Other factors might play in, but for a journal, these are three that you should always be considering.

Quality

Customers might not choose to publish with you if they perceive that your journal is of a lower quality than another viable option. We’ve talked about running a journal previously and stressed the importance of reputation. Briefly, reputation is one of the most important factors that you need to maintain when it comes to your journal. If you want to be truly successful, your journal needs a good reputation. What might feel difficult to understand is “how does one measure reputation?” Things like Impact Factors are one way, but your reputation in the community as a publisher of quality manuscripts is another. There’s a reason why everyone still knows about Nature after over 150 years. Reputation matters.

What quality control measures you use, how selective your submission process is, and the make up of your editorial board might have an impact. Because it’s a perceived value, you won’t be able to directly control the perception, but you can control the factors that get you there.

Brand reputation

We’ve already talked very briefly about Nature as a journal that has had lots of success and a strong reputation. But it’s important to understand that reputation is something that can change over time and be lost. It can also be regained (but it might take a lot of hard work). A good case study here is that while Apple might be one of the most valuable companies in the world right now, there was a time when they were on the verge of bankruptcy. Their reputation was not what they wanted it to be, so they had to work really hard to develop their company to be where they wanted it to be. This shows that while reputation can be finicky to manage, it is definitely something to work on improving always.

Your brand reputation isn’t static, but it does rely on people’s opinions. To get people to use your journal, you might need to help motivate them to submit, and because price is a factor that people consider, using vouchers to incentivize submissions might be useful.

Price

Whether we like to think of this or not, price matters. What price point you pick for your products is important, and while there are many journals out there that cost a great deal to publish in, some don’t. You can’t charge a lot of money initially to publish in your journal (well, you can, but it will likely negatively impact your plans) because you don’t have the brand reputation needed to support that. Pricing a product depends on a lot of different factors, but if you want to learn more about pricing, we encourage that you see our article about competitive pricing for your journal. Pricing your journal requires you to consider a number of different factors, ranging from your journal’s overhead costs to how much it costs for you to pay your editors.

But price is important. It’s an important factor that you need to consider. If your price is too high, people may not be able to afford it. If the price is too low, people might assume that it’s a lesser quality. You’ll need to do research to find your sweet spot.

How vouchers can help your reputation

When you’re running a journal, you should not sacrifice long-term reputation for short-term gains. It’s important to remember that when you make decisions you should be thinking about how this will affect your reputation. Providing users with vouchers can help to establish your journal as one that rewards the community for participation. Offering vouchers to anyone who does peer review for you might seem like you’re handing out vouchers to everyone, but it’s critical for you to make sure that people who contribute to the success of your journal have some kind of reward. Because the peer review process is a volunteer-based system, reviewers do it for free. That said, you can always give them a token of thanks, in this situation a voucher, to show that you appreciate the effort that they have made.

While a peer reviewer might not be ready to (or interested in) contributing to your journal, if you make vouchers transferrable, they can pass the voucher along to one of their colleagues. In a way, this act serves as a very important kind of marketing. People are more likely to trust something if it is recommended by someone they know and trust.

Incorporating vouchers into your payment system

Tracking vouchers can be challenging. Especially if your vouchers use different codes. Codes are numbers that you can use to keep track of sources (for example, peer review rewards vs. promotional vouchers) and these can help to inform you about where you are being more successful.

In cases like these, a journal management system can be incredibly powerful as the infrastructure to use and apply vouchers might be built into the system. However you choose to track them, make sure that you do. You should always try your best to make sure you track data that can give you an advantage as you move forward in your business. If you know that your peer review vouchers are not successful, perhaps upping the amount of the voucher (or discontinuing them altogether). Finding the right balance is important, but as we noted above, it’s important to think about long term benefits when you start these ideas. If no one has used a voucher a week after you issue them, discontinuing them would be premature and reactionary.

Long term is the scale that matters when it comes to your journal’s success. Coming back to our example about Nature, they haven’t survived for so long because of short term thinking. They did because they focused on maintaining principles and being consistent.

Be consistent, and you’ll be successful.

D.J. McPhee
6 May 2024
Posted inEconomics of Publishing
Post author D.J. McPhee
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