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Making The Pharmaceutical Journal bigger and better

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PJ mag cover

Source: JL / Dave Phillips

From the August 2019 issue of The Pharmaceutical Journal we are making important changes to the way we deliver editorial content to you as part of your membership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). Rather than receiving a package of two separate print publications — The PJ and Clinical Pharmacist — each month, you will receive a single print copy of The PJ. This doesn’t mean you will receive less content, however. The PJ will now contain the peer-reviewed CPD and original research that had previously been the preserve of Clinical Pharmacist, on top of all the news, features, opinion, learning and careers content already contained within The PJ. And the combined page count of editorial content in print will remain largely similar.  

In January 2019, I wrote to all members to invite you to complete a survey on the idea of combining the content from Clinical Pharmacist into The PJ, and repurposing Clinical Pharmacist as an online-only research journal. More than 1,400 of you took the time to answer our questions, and the response was largely very positive: 87% of respondents thought it was a good idea and supported the proposal. “I don’t see what purpose having two separate journals brings,” commented one member. “Provided there will be the same amount of content, please do not use this as an opportunity to reduce the content.” 

Of course, it is also important to understand the opinions of those members who felt that it wasn’t the right move, with 7% of members against the proposal. For instance, one member said they would “prefer to keep the clinical aspects of the profession totally separate from the rest of the mainstream knowledge” and that Clinical Pharmacist is “pitched at a different level to the main journal” and should be kept this way. Another member said they valued Clinical Pharmacist more than The PJ, but that it might now involve a “change of habit to flick through The PJ to find that more ‘meaty’ section”. 

But these changes are genuinely designed to improve the benefits of your membership. For the past five years, the print edition of The PJ has not included peer-reviewed CPD or research articles — an oddity considering the name of our flagship journal. One member commented that The PJ does not publish articles of scholarly merit and that “it would be good to see them back” rather than having it separate. From August, The PJ will now include original research, peer-reviewed CPD articles and opinion pieces from world-leading pharmacy practitioners and pharmaceutical scientists, on top of all the current content. 

Making this change to your publication has not been taken lightly. We know there is a strong collective sense of ownership of The PJ and this connection with our readers is our single biggest asset. We presented the proposal, first to the national board chair forum, then the publishing board of the RPS, winning support for the changes. 

It is now five years since I first joined The PJ as the managing editor. Back then, the thinking went that The PJ was a mix of policy and politics with CPD content geared more towards community pharmacy, while Clinical Pharmacist was as opt-in benefit intended for hospital-based pharmacists. The logic was that community pharmacy wasn’t as clinical as hospital. But when we did a sector analysis, we found that community pharmacists had a great desire for the clinical content their hospital colleagues received. While sectors will always exist and our content must remain relevant to everyday practice, the idea that one is more technical or should be provided with more clinical content should be challenged. And it is by generating new insights that we can overturn long-held assumptions and continue to adapt to the evolving healthcare system. 

Following significant investment by the RPS in 2013, we transformed The PJ into what it is today. We implemented a new editorial strategy, one that involved a new digital platform ‘pharmaceutical-journal.com’, established an in-house production team and many made other changes that have resulted in a considerable improvement in the look and feel of The PJ, no less than in the infographics that we produce each month, which take a huge amount of skill and effort from the team.

We did something else important: we went ‘digital-first’, moving our workflows away from being ‘print-first’, and in many ways a ‘print-first’ mentality. By first producing articles online before print production even begins, it means we can be far more flexible in how we manage our print editions — going up in page count, switching from a weekly to a monthly, and building a recognised source of pharmacy news and education online.

It’s been amazing to see how The PJ platform has grown. The online version of the old PJ Online used to receive about around 30,000 visitors per month. When, the new website launched, the number of visitors began to grow and for the first time we broke through the 100,000 unique visitors per month by the end of 2014. Those numbers have grown steadily since, jumping significantly in the past 12 months — we now have more than 630,000 unique visitors per month.

Of course, print is still a major part of what we do and I cannot see this changing anytime soon. Over the longer term, it’s harder to predict. But one thing is for certain, we constantly need to improve how we present our content online and in print. We have some projects under way that aim to achieve this, including changing how we organise all our CPD and learning content online into resource hubs, positioning related content on curated pages, and we also have plans to improve our app.

Another improvement we have made recently on the back of insights from our members is the launch of our new article type ‘case based learning’. We asked you what you would like us do more of and it came out as the top result, with more than 60% of respondents putting it as their top ask. We published the first one in June 2019 and there is healthy pipeline of articles on the way. It won’t be long before we seek your feedback on how this new article type is working for you.

I plan to write more regularly about what’s going at The PJ. There will be a lot more to share when it comes to how we repurpose Clinical Pharmacist into an online-only research journal in 2020. Next, though, I will write about how we are using insights to design editorial campaigns, as well as discuss new ways we have been working with the pharmaceutical industry.

We hope you enjoy your new and improved copy of The PJ when it arrives at the end of August 2019. Feedback is always welcomed, please get in touch via email at correspondence@pharmaceutical-journal.com.

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