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5 Steps to Migrate Your Scholarly Journal to a New Website

5 Steps to Migrate Your Scholarly Journal to a New Website


Moving a journal from one platform to another is generally a major project for independent publishers. Cost is a major consideration, along with impact on your staff’s time and resources, all weighed against the long-term benefits to your journal publishing program.

So where do you begin? We created this toolkit with five major elements to keep in mind when moving your journal’s website from one platform to another.

Step 1: Take an inventory of content and determine what you want to move

By far the most important element in your move is your content; you want to make sure you do not lose anything in the transition. We recommend creating a detailed inventory of your content, recording how many articles and issues you plan to move, as well as the formats (PDF, full-text/metadata XML, etc.) used to capture the content. In addition, take stock of any special collections or supplemental issues. This inventory will help your migration team keep track of everything during the transition and make sure nothing gets left behind.

Next, review the parts of your website that generally remain the same, like submission guidelines, instructions for authors or how to submit a manuscript. Are there any pages you would like to add or pages you need to recycle? The goal of this step is to review your static content for relevance and accuracy. Your provider can help you plan a new site map that ensures an easy navigation experience for your site’s visitors.

Step 2: Take an inventory of your members and subscribers and determine who you want to move

If you sell journal subscriptions to individuals, libraries, and other institutions, it is critical that you create an inventory of everyone with current access that will need to be moved over to the new platform. It’s also critical to move only the necessary data for each person or institution, keeping in mind all the relevant regulations about managing user data (GDPR, etc.).

You should also document the various models you sell content to members and institutions so proper access can be set up on the new platform. For example, do you offer perpetual access for institutions? If the journal is a benefit of a society or association membership, how long does membership access last and is there a grace period to allow annual renewals to be processed?

Double-check how you are sending access control information to the online platform. Are you using Single Sign-On? Referring URLs? If you are transferring user or institution data how often are you making updates and what data points are you collecting?

Step 3:  Determine what reporting you need and what you are going to move

Transitioning from one journal platform to another also means a change in the tools used to capture journal metrics. In most cases the institution-specific COUNTER reports that were generated on the old platform will expire, so you should consider either including a migration of those older reports to the new system or informing your subscribing institutions that they will need to pull all reports from the old platform before it is deactivated.

Along with the COUNTER reports, you should document what other reports are necessary for either your staff or for your readers. These might include article metrics, most cited articles and most downloaded reports. This will help in selecting a new platform and inform your team on what, if any, reports will need to be downloaded or migrated to the new platform.

If you are collecting site-wide metrics from Google Analytics (or another analytics package) you should plan to incorporate your site ID(s) in the new platform so that site metrics continue uninterrupted after the transition is complete.

Step 4: Site Look and Feel, Branding

Moving to a new platform is like putting a on a fresh coat of paint; the resulting new site is expected to be easier to navigate and read. Consider how your site reflects on your organization as well. Do you want the new site to look like the old site in terms of color, key images, and logos? Or has your brand already grown past your website and the new website needs to catch up? Your provider’s support team can help you determine a branding strategy that accurately reflects where your publication is today, with an eye to the future.

Step 5: Communication

Your platform migration, no matter how smooth the transition, will be a disruption for your staff and your readers. Likewise, it will also be a disruption to search engines and any content aggregations or discovery services you are participating in. Timely and focused communication of an upcoming migration is critical for easing everyone into the new way.

Plan how to notify all your readers about the impending change. Giving them notice about what is going to change for them will save you time after launch. Posting notices on the site and emailing members and subscribers about how the migration will affect them will save you support tickets and worried calls post-migration.

Work with your new platform team to minimize disruption for SEO and aggregators. This is a standardized process for most providers, so ask what their plan is for this part of the migration. Look for what steps are needed to notify Google and the other search engines about the migration. They can also make sure that all your downstream organizations are in the loop (CrossRef, Clarivate, PubMed, etc.). Each one has different requirements for updating them on migrations that might impact submissions.

While moving a journal’s digital platform is a major undertaking, it can be accomplished in a methodical way that makes the most of your resources, including the experience and industry knowledge of your provider. If managed well, the migration process should help your team reflect on how to best position your publication for the next phase of its lifespan and how to keep readers thoroughly engaged.