Cover Story: Publishing ... Down to a Science
The last eight years have been tough for science. They have, however, been very good for Science, the flagship publication of the Washington, D.C.-based American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in terms of readership and advertising growth. Founded in 1880 with seed money provided by inventor Thomas Edison, Science is today the largest peer-reviewed journal in the world, with a total readership of more than 1 million.
The difficulties of a political climate in which scientists sometimes feel pushed to the margins of policy conversations has made the organization’s commitment to science advocacy more important than ever. It also has piqued the public’s interest in science issues, opening the door for the AAAS to become a source for educators, journalists and the general public.
“We have a broader mission than most publishers, even scientific publishers,” says Alan Leshner, CEO of the AAAS. “Being the largest general scientific society in the world gives us an obligation to represent all of science and technology … and to be international in scope. Most of what AAAS does is at the interface of science and the rest of society, or things to advance the status or careers of the scientific community. So the journal is, of course, a major part of all of this.”
Science has retained a solid advertising base in an era of declining print revenues. While income from subscriptions has increased relative to ad revenue in recent years, close to 40 percent of revenue still comes from advertising, down from a little more than 50 percent a few years ago, according to Beth Rosner, publisher of Science. The change, however, reflects increases in membership rather than an eroding client base, she says, as many more foreign scientists have joined the organization in recent years. While online advertising has grown at a double-digit rate, ad spends for print products have remained stable, Rosner says, adding that the majority of the organization’s ad revue still comes from print.
“We still have a strong print product that our advertisers deem as very important,” she says. “We’ve become much more international in our focus, and that goes for advertising sales as well. We see our reach as more global than we did 10 years ago, and that’s brought in all kinds of new advertising opportunities.”