David Payne: Digital dilemmas—a day in my life at The BMJ

deputy chair of MJA on stage (1)Wednesday December 10.

8.30am: I’m on the bus into work and checking Twitter when I see an exchange between @garyschwitzer and @bengoldacre about some embargoed papers we press released last night, (including Ben’s editorial and a linked research paper about the association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases), not showing on thebmj.com.

I apologise to @garyschwitzer and explain why I think they aren’t working.

9.20am: When I get into work my web team colleagues Kelly Brendel and Tinuke Bernard are investigating why the papers, sent the day before to our web hosts HighWire in California (where it’s now the middle of the night), aren’t there. We take failures like this very seriously. The press released articles also include an investigation by The BMJ’s news reporter Gareth Iacobucci, into private contracts in the NHS. The articles are soon showing.

9.30am: My colleagues in BMJ Learning invite me to their monthly breakfast team meeting to talk about The BMJ‘s website redesign and rebrand, (which went live in June 2014), and our plans for 2015.

We work closely with BMJ Learning because lots of our educational content has CME/CPD links to their website. Last week a reader contacted me because he was suddenly getting a login page when he clicked on the link, whereas previously he went straight to the module. We talk about this problem at the meeting, but more generally about how a single sign-on, both for The BMJ and BMJ Learning, would help. I’m being asked to develop a digital strategy for 2015. I will include this idea on the strategic “wish list.”

11am: I’m back at my desk and Duncan Jarvies, multimedia editor, shows me this year’s Christmas BMJ video, which is due to go live next week alongside a paper. It’s very entertaining. I also look at the latest infographic being developed by our newest team member, Will Stahl-Timmins. It’s great to see articles being brought to life in this way. How can we develop this in 2015? How can we stay authoritative and accurate, but also be more entertaining, engaging, and interactive (and fun, when appropriate)? Another one for the digital strategy, I guess.

Noon: It’s our weekly planning meeting and we talk of an initiative launching in 2015 to capture the views of NHS clinicians. We are very proud of article based “rapid responses” at the The BMJ, and our growing army of bloggers and podcast and “round table” interviewees. As an increasingly international journal, we need to ensure that the views of clinicians get represented in the journal—that we don’t just focus on those in leadership positions.

3pm: With a bellyful of turkey (today was our team’s Christmas lunch in the canteen) I meet with colleagues in BMJ Technology to discuss some items on The BMJ’s backlog. One of them is a request to have more social media links as readers scroll down articles online. Many of our articles contain images, tables, infographics, video, and audio files. We’re very proud of the bmj_latest’s £151k Twitter followers and our 35 815 Facebook “likes.” What can do we do engage with them more? Another one for the strategy, I guess.

4pm: My web team colleague Birte Twisselmann gives me some great feedback about some revamped FAQs about The BMJ‘s iPad app, which we’re making some changes to in 2015. Our app has been live for a few years now and is in need of a revamp. We launched a responsively designed version of The BMJ website in June 2014, and wondered at the time if we would see online traffic migrate from our weekly iPad app to the website, which now fits tablet and smartphone devices better. Another issue for the strategy.

6.30pm: On the bus home after a quick visit to the gym, I remember we are doing a technical release that evening (or at least our hosting partners at HighWire Press are). This will include a more prominent link to audio files on articles, and links to the latest UK and international jobs from BMJ Careers. We can be guilty of silo working at BMJ, but between November 2011 and June 2014 The BMJ website, as the flagship product, had lots of links to sister products (BMJ Learning, Student BMJ, BMJ Careers, BMJ specialty journals, BMJ Masterclasses etc). We stripped most of these out as part of a major de-cluttering of the site, but were keen to reinstate the links to the latest jobs. We hope readers like this change, and wonder if we should add more? Another one for the strategy, but let us know what you think.

  • This blog formed the basis of a five minute presentation from me at a BMJ Editorial strategy day meeting, held in London on 11 December 2014. Editor in chief Fiona Godlee suggested I turn it into a blog.

David Payne is digital editor and reader’ editor, The BMJ.

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