Writing for the (general) public without renouncing one’s peers: Three online journal experiments

Digital experiments
By Axelle Brodiez-Dolino, Émilien Ruiz, Nicolas Delalande, Emmanuel Bellanger, Charlotte Vorms, Sébastien Poublanc

Free online journals have enjoyed considerable momentum over the past decade, as shown by the increased number of journals and papers viewed and by their inventiveness and their appeal—both to scholars and to the general public. To better understand this trend, which requires academic writing to be adapted, grows the potential audience for scholars and challenges the traditional business models for scholarly journals, three free multidisciplinary publications responded positively to our request for an interview: La Vie des idées, Métropolitiques and Mondes sociaux. These three journals reach an audience that is unparalleled for the print publications of traditional journals (whose circulation figures are declining): more than 450,000 unique visits per month for La Vie des idées, 20-30,000 for Mondes sociaux, and 4,500 a day on average for Métropolitiques.What are these journals’ objectives and their business model? What place does history hold for them, especially contemporary social history? Who are their readers – and is their actual audience the one they initially targeted? What are the keys for a successful paper? Is it rewarding for a scholar to publish a paper in these journals? Do they use a writing style that is very different from traditional academic journals? How can the readership for the social and human sciences be expanded, while keeping their specific requirements in terms of proof, methodology and empirical enquiry? This joint interview endeavours to answer all these questions.

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