Rising Costs of Journal Subscriptions: NMS vs. JCMC

The two main peer-reviewed journals that are within my information theory interests include the ‘New Media & Society‘ (NMS) and the ‘Journal of Computer Mediated Communication‘ (JCMC). Both these journals are popularly cited and are both represented online. A worthy point to note is that the New Media & Society is available online as Adobe PDF documents and offline as hardcopy journals, while the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication is freely available online. This distinction makes for an interesting comparison between the two information and communication technology-related journals.

About New Media & Society
On April 1999, Professors Nicholas Jankowski, Steve Jones, Rohan Samarajiva, and Roger Silverstone saw the rising need for a new international journal that would address the social implications of emerging communication and information technologies. They aimed to encourage critical discussion of the key issues arising from new media developments, drawing on a wide range of disciplinary perspectives and on both theoretical and empirical research. The New Media & Society considers contributions from the entire spectrum of new media developments, but does so with a primary focus on the processes of communication. So far, the journal has published contributions on topics such as: digitalization and convergence; interactivity and virtuality; consumption and citizenship; innovation, regulation and control; the cultures of the Internet; patterns and inequalities of use; community and identity in electronic space; time and space in global culture and everyday life; the politics of cyberspace. As with the diverse range of topics, the journal offers a multidisciplinary perspective as it publishes material grounded in both the social sciences and the humanities, and includes contributions from communication, media and cultural studies, as well as from sociology, geography, anthropology, economics, political science, and the information sciences.

As an international journal, this publication has global affiliations as seen in the editorial panel which consists of major theorists around the world. The founder and editor is Prof. Nicholas Jankowski from the University of Nijmegen, located in the Netherlands. Co-editors include Steve Jones from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Leah A Lievrouw University of California, in Los Angeles, Roger Silverstone London School of Economics and Political Science, in UK and Keith Hampton, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston. The journal also features a decent list of contributing editors and an international advisory board from universities in countries such as United Kingdom, United States of America, India, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Netherlands, Hungary, Japan, and Italy. SAGE Publications is a huge publishing company which handles the distribution of the New Media & Society. SAGE publishes more than 325 journals, including those of more than 70 learned societies and institutions. They have an extensive list of journals spanning more than 30 disciplines which includes some of the premier journals in the social sciences and medicine and technology domain.

Although they print and distribute the hardcopy journals, they also have subscriptions available for the online version of most journals. Since the University at Buffalo Library does not have the hardcopy available to students, they do have an online subscription with SAGE, which is much more convenient for scholars looking for articles within the New Media & Society. It is important to note that while SAGE handles the distribution of the journal, the New Media & Society homepage at http://www.new-media-and-society.com offers details on the nature and goal of their organization, but only offers abstracts of articles from their journal. The full-text articles of their recent and archived articles require the paid subscription with SAGE. As such, the New Media & Society is available offline and online, but both are not freely available. The journal is in its 6th volume, 4th issue, and is published bi-monthly on February, April, June, August, October, and December. The ISSN for the journal is 1461-4448. SAGE offers the New Media & Society at http://www.sagepub.com/journalManuscript.aspx?pid=90&sc=1 .

Nature of Articles
The New Media & Society is entirely focused on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and its social implications. Among the articles presented were papers on e-government, blogging and journalism, the use of communication technology during the 9/11 event, and the differences in readership of online versus print newspapers. A notable article from the New Media & Society includes a recent paper submitted by George Barnett and his Korean communication students Han Woo Park and Chun-Sik Kim entitled the ‘Socio-Communicational Structure among Political Actors on the Web in South Korea: The Dynamics of Digital Presence in Cyberspace’ (2004). This article finds an increased use of the World Wide Web for political discourse in Korea. The authors examine the current structure of the socio-communication network among Korean political parties and politicians on the World Wide Web and how the structure has changed over the last two years. The communication network is defined by the existence of hyperlinks among websites. The data were obtained from the homepages of Korea’s parties and national assemblymen for 2000 and 2001. The results indicated that the network has become denser, more highly integrated, centralized and interactive over time. Another article submitted from our University’s School of Informatics this year includes Arun Vishwanath’s ‘Manifestations of interpersonal trust in online interaction: A cross-cultural study comparing the differential utilization of seller ratings by eBay participants in Canada, France, and Germany’ (2004). This article explores how interpersonal trust for online interactions differs from country to country. Cultures that exhibit high levels of interpersonal trust tend to participate in online auctions irrespective of the sellers’ feedback ratings. The study is done using data from the World Values Survey and Inglehart’s (1997) scores on interpersonal trust. Even Alexander Halavais has his paper entitled ‘National borders on the world wide web’ (2000) published in this journal as well. While the journal does offer book reviews aside from the research articles, most of the articles do feature quantitative as well as qualitative research.

The SAGE web interface offers no visible indication of such themed issues unless one ventures into each issue’s editorial. The journal’s official homepage does offer a better listing as to which were the themed issues. The editors regularly call for proposals for themed sections, defined as three to four papers on a single topic meriting special focus or exploration. As such, April 1999 saw an issue about ‘What’s new about new media’?, September 2000 had an issue entitle ‘Content is king? Culture, community and commerce’, while September 2001 had one entitled ‘On the edge: cultural barriers and catalysts to IT diffusion among remote and marginalized communities’. A themed section appeared in the June 2002 issue on the Internet in China. In 2003, a themed issue featured papers on cybercafes, guest-edited by Sonia Liff. Finally, the recent October 2004 issue was an issue dedicated to 9/11 and new media. The interesting point about the 9/11 themed issue was that one could see how both old and new media were mobilized to meet the challenges and threat of chaos that came from this attack, and to see how the media was applied in the private as well as public settings. The editors do realize the significance of themed sections as one of the most valuable features of New Media & Society. They plan to publish themed sections on digital memory and hacking in 2004.

About Journal of Computer Mediated Communication
The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (JCMC) started in June 1995 and comes in the form of an electronic journal distributed over the World Wide Web. The homepage is at http://jcmc.indiana.edu/. This scholarly publication is a joint project of the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, and the Information Systems Division of the School of Business Administration, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Representing their respective universities are the editors of the journal, Margaret McLaughlin and Sheizaf Rafaeli. The editors are joined by a large editorial board consisting of professors mostly from the western nations.

The editors started this journal because they believed that computer-mediated communication (CMC) was an exponentially growing and constantly evolving phenomenon. They felt that as a subject of inquiry, CMC was wide-ranging and encompassed the individual, group, organizational, social, and cultural levels of analysis. According to them, the computer as a medium fosters new forms and supports established modes of social interaction. The computer-mediated communication network literally constitutes a new world, and as well a global oasis where many scholars are coming to tarry. Their intention was to form a scientific, refereed journal to serve these scholars.
The announcement of the JCMC came at the ‘Second International WWW Conference ’94: Mosiac and the Web’, organized by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) on September 16, 1994. According to the announcement (1994), the journal sought to publish original essays and research reports on such topics as interpersonal and group processes in communication networks, issues of privacy, economics and access raised by the developing information infrastructure, instructional communication in distance learning, computer-supported cooperative work, and organizational and social policy issues occasioned by the new medium. The unique aspect of this journal is that the JCMC has been and is still an electronic-only journal. As seen in how this journal is widely referenced, it has managed to remain exclusively online without compromising its scholarly nature. The editors claim that the electronic form is intended to make the journal more accessible and affordable, emphasizing its global appeal, and broadening the bandwidth in which its content is offered. They also noted that this electronic form accelerates the editorial and production process, by encouraging reader-editor-reviewer-author interaction. The very nature of going electronic is a statement in itself, as illustrated by Marshall McLuhan’s seminal work entitled ‘The medium is the message’. The editors said that although electronic information services that focus on journalistic or cartographic approaches to CMC currently exist, the fact that JCMC operates on an entirely electronic level makes the journal very different. It seems refreshing yet natural to see a communication journal practice the use of CMC in the editorial process and as a medium for the outlet of this work. In a way, the JCMC can be said to be practicing what they preach. Special attention should finally be brought to how the journal also holds online mini-conferences surrounding special issues. Instead of passively calling for papers, this journal is very active in terms of getting scholarly work published.

Nature of Articles
Technically, since the JCMC is distributed as a hypermedia document on the World Wide Web, contributors could also include illustrative materials such as photographs, color graphics, sound clips, and short video clips, and as well to provide hyperlinks to related documents such as annotated bibliographies, archived data, and journals in related fields. This seems like an evolutionary step toward better scholarly work as it would help in better understanding of the research.

Similar to the New Media & Society (NMS) journal, the JCMC features themed issues as well, if not more. Already into Volume 9, Issue 4 of their journal, the JCMC already has numerous theme issues on topics such as the multilingual Internet (9,1), electronic networks and democracy (8,3), Internet adoption in the Asia-Pacific (7,2), Health and New Media (6,4), Persistent Questions in Internet Research (6,1), Computer-Mediated Markets (5,3), Electronic Commerce and the Web (5,2), Online Journalism (4,1), and Virtual Organizations (3,4). Also, there seems to be a lot of ‘methods of enquiry’ type papers where researchers try to discuss ways in which they can analyze things that may be hard to quantify. For example, Woelfel, J. (July 2003) co-authored a paper on ‘Procedures for Analyses of Online Communities’. He wrote about a set of procedures for the analysis and interpretation of the content and structure of online networks and communities. He showed unique methods for the analysis of online chat, including parsing the data into separate and interrelated files to determine individual, group and organizational patterns. With the findings from his semantic network analysis methods, one can determine elements of online interaction which would be near impossible from the sheer amount of text-based data generated from these online communities. As with most other papers in this journal, this case study allows for qualitative and quantitative analyses.

Comparison of Journals
From the obvious, the New Media & Society journal features an international approach to the research as compared to the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. Based on the editorial boards of each journal, the NMS has affiliates worldwide, while the JCMC is more US-centric with affiliates mostly from the western nations. If having a global perspective is important to a budding scholar, he or she should publish to the NMS as its international relevance would mean that it would be cited often more than the JCMC.

However, there is more to consider when publishing to a journal. The JCMC is about four year older than NMS, and is into its 9th volume as compare to NMS being at its 6th volume. This means that the JCMC is not only freely available online, but contains more articles, making it more accessible and attractive. Furthermore, the feature where JCMC is entire web-based makes it very attractive in terms of how it could accommodate more forms of media besides text and diagrams. If a scholar is interested in moving towards a progressive journal that is allows for the use of multimedia and is also free to the public, then the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication is for them.

Journal Selection
While I personally like the idea of publishing to the JCMC due to its free and open access, I recognized the traditional problem which plagues all young researchers. To illustrate the beginnings of this problem, compare the number of articles published in each journal by scholars by our faculty. The University at Buffalo (SUNY) has about five papers published in the NMS journal, while only two in the JCMC, even though JCMC has been around longer. More professors and graduate students publish to the NMS than the JCMC. In fact, the JCMC only saw only four authors from our department, namely Joseph Woelfel, George Barnett and graduate students Han Woo Park and Junho Choi. This phenomenon seems to be due to the perceived reputation of each journal. The phenomenon is a traditional scholarship problem was recently a theme for a conference organized at the University at Buffalo last year. Entitled ‘ScholCom: Scholarly Communication in an Information Age’, the conference was held on November 11, 2003 and archives of the event is still available at http://libweb.lib.buffalo.edu/ScholCom/

(Rising) Monographs and Serial Costs in ARL Canadian Institutions, 1986-2003
Figure 1: [Rising] Monographs and Serial Costs in ARL Canadian Institutions, 1986-2003

Referring to Figure 1, we can observe the issue of how journal publishers have been increasingly raising the cost of subscription to scholarly work, making it hard for libraries to afford copies and essentially cutting off access to research which was meant for students in the first place. While cheaper or free alternative journals have surfaced (e.g. JCMC), the problem is that most scholars perceive the established published journals as ‘must publish in’ should they seek tenure-ship. Until an agreed standard can be achieved at the university level, journals such as JCMC will always be seen as less important as compared to NMS. Given this paradigm, I would have to publish to New Media & Society in order to get myself recognized as a scholar, and once I am established as communication thinker, I would promote alternative journals by publish more articles to the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication.

Announcement of the JCMC at the Second International WWW Conference ’94: Mosiac and the Web retrieved on 26th September 2004 from

Halavais, A. (2000). National Borders on the World Wide Web. New Media Society, 2: 7-28.

Park, H.W., Kim, C.S. and Barnett, G. (2004). Socio-Communicational Structure among Political Actors on the Web in South Korea: The Dynamics of Digital Presence in Cyberspace. New Media & Society, 6, 403-423.

Rosen, D., Woelfel, J., Krikorian, D. and Barnett, G. (2003) Procedures for Analyses of Online Communities. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. 8 (4)

Vishwanath, A. (2004). Manifestations of interpersonal trust in online interaction: A cross-cultural study comparing the differential utilization of seller ratings by eBay participants in Canada, France, and Germany. New Media & Society. 6: 219-234.

8 thoughts on “Rising Costs of Journal Subscriptions: NMS vs. JCMC

  1. Thank you. This report is meant for Pauline Cheong’s COM630 ICT class, but I am interested in “open access to information” as seen in my report. Looks like nothing will be free, but hopefully this will have a good turn eventually.

  2. Another comment on your piece, the NM&S is indexed in the ISI’s SSCI database. But the JCMC is not. This sometimes really matters in deciding where to submit. One more thing, the JCMC has recently became an ICA title. This is expected to give some positive effect on increasing its visibility among international audience.

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