Expanding Nature: Product line and brand extensions of a scientific journal

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Learned Publishing, 35 (2): 187-197 (2022)


Abstract Academic publishers now market their most prestigious journals as commercial brands. This paper investigates this trend in the scholarly publishing market, by analyzing how the successive owners of the journal Nature have capitalized on its reputation to generate additional profits to those already accumulated through university library subscriptions. Two branding strategies of the journal Nature are analyzed: the first one, product line extension, consists in extending the Nature brand in the same product category, by creating an ever-increasing number of derived Nature journals; the second one, brand extension, consists in extending the Nature brand to other categories of products and services, such as academic rankings, sponsored supplements, feature advertisements, or webinars and trainings. The Nature brand leveraging strategy has been imitated by many other journal publishers. These branded products and services are well suited to the particular dynamics of the scientific field, which is based on the continuous quest for recognition. They are thus sold at all stages of the research cycle, from writing grants to popularizing research results, to scientists and academic institutions competing to accumulate symbolic capital. In this respect, academic publishers that engage in scholarly journal branding contribute to the transformation of the scientific ‘community’ into a scientific market.



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