The use of the World Wide Web by medical journals in 2003 and 2005: an observational study.
Schriger DL., Ouk S., Altman DG.
OBJECTIVES: The 2- to 6-page print journal article has been the standard for 200 years, yet this format severely limits the amount of detailed information that can be conveyed. The World Wide Web provides a low-cost option for posting extended text and supplementary information. It also can enhance the experience of journal editors, reviewers, readers, and authors through added functionality (eg, online submission and peer review, postpublication critique, and e-mail notification of table of contents.) Our aim was to characterize ways that journals were using the World Wide Web in 2005 and note changes since 2003. METHODS: We analyzed the Web sites of 138 high-impact print journals in 3 ways. First, we compared the print and Web versions of March 2003 and 2005 issues of 28 journals (20 of which were randomly selected from the 138) to determine how often articles were published Web only and how often print articles were augmented by Web-only supplements. Second, we examined what functions were offered by each journal Web site. Third, for journals that offered Web pages for reader commentary about each article, we analyzed the number of comments and characterized these comments. RESULTS: Fifty-six articles (7%) in 5 journals were Web only. Thirteen of the 28 journals had no supplementary online content. By 2005, several journals were including Web-only supplements in >20% of their papers. Supplementary methods, tables, and figures predominated. The use of supplementary material increased by 5% from 2% to 7% in the 20-journal random sample from 2003 to 2005. Web sites had similar functionality with an emphasis on linking each article to related material and e-mailing readers about activity related to each article. There was little evidence of journals using the Web to provide readers an interactive experience with the data or with each other. Seventeen of the 138 journals offered rapid-response pages. Only 18% of eligible articles had any comments after 5 months. CONCLUSIONS: Journal Web sites offer similar functionality. The use of online-only articles and online-only supplements is increasing.