The Success of Two Medical Journals Online

I?m returning to work this week after four weeks vacation.

Before vacation, I had the pleasure to work with the trustees of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery , the 117 year-old monthly, peer-reviewed journal of American orthopedic surgeons. It had been three years since I?d done any new-media consulting to the medical industry (lecturing at the National Cancer Institute on ?Using Third-Generation Online Technologies to Stimulate and Support Cancer Research?) and now see remarkable changes.

Surgeons are clearly using printed medical reports less and online reports more. One reason for this change may be that they simply have less time to read printed medical journals during their hectic days. However, another reason is certainly that the technologies to access detailed (text plus graphics) medical reports online has gotten much simpler. Most hospitals and American physicians? homes are now wired for broadband access. High-speed online access is particularly important because viewing medical photography and radiophotography (X-ray images) online requires accessing very large (multimegabyte) JPEG, TIFF, or PDF files. HTML (even when aided by Macromedia Flash) won’t cut it with surgeons online.

Thus much of the success of medical journals? conversions from print to online also is due to digital edition technologies. Both JBJS and the weekly New England Journal of Medicine (my thanks to NEJM Executive Director of International Business and Product Development Kent Anderson for sharing information) has been due to their sales of medical reports in PDF format to physicians. Physicians download and printout their choices of pertinent reports in PDF.

These peer-reviewed medical journals use a hybrid free-paid websites, with most of their basic content available for free, but with charges to access archives, detailed reports, or place employment ads. NEJM, with a new-media staff of two, nowadays has million dollar online revenues and sold some 60,000-PDF format reports last year.