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How soap reveals the future of digital journalism

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Soap. A simple enough word, but what does it mean? A bar of fat used for cleaning? Subjective, Objective, Assessment and Plan (SOAP)? The lead character in the “Call of duty: modern warfare” games? It could be any of the three.

This is part of the challenge when it comes to analysing website data. We monitor the trends on the Pharmaceutical Journal website constantly; we can see how many visitors are logged on at any time, where they’re from in the world, and what they’re reading. This allows us to hone our content to what’s in demand. For example, if an article proves particularly popular, we might look at how else we can explore the topic, or whether the article is designed in a particular style that you find useful. If we see a lot of searches for, say, stroke management, we might consider revisiting the subject in Clinical Pharmacist to make sure our content is up to date.

On 7 August the most common search on the Pharmaceutical Journal’s website was for “soap”. Immediately we started asking why. Could it be linked with the current ebola scare? There are 25,000 news stories on Google at the moment which mention soap and water are effective disinfectants against the virus. Others in the team thought it was about SOAP notes. We were stumped.

So we asked you.

This is the second part of our changing strategy. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll put our hands up and ask. Social media allows us to talk to readers in a quick, responsive way. We asked about soap on Twitter and immediately responses came in from pharmacists across the country – from academics in Liverpool to community pharmacists in Yorkshire. You had a variety of ideas, all relevant, but all different. That made us feel confident we weren’t missing a breaking soap-related story:  if the UK soap industry had gone bottom’s up overnight you would have told us.

We’re now looking at how we can address your soapy needs in another way and you should see the results soon. But this example shows how we’re being smarter about listening to our audience. We are using data to determine trends, our expert journalists discuss how the trends relate to pharmacy practice, and we talk to you.

Soap, a simple word, shows how dynamic journalism can be in the digital age.

 

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