Editor’s Desk: Serving the Chemistry Community

Our editor-in-chief tells us about the initiatives C&EN has been undertaking as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Bibiana Campos Seijo

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Bibiana Campos Seijo C&EN advertising

by Bibiana Campos Seijo | Editor-in-Chief and VP of C&EN Media Group | @bibianaCampos

The last few months have been unprecedented. For most of us, a time of high anxiety and uncertainty. With reason. This pandemic is the stuff of movies: mandates of self-isolation, closures of schools, chaos in hospitals around the world, millions of infected people, deaths in the hundreds of thousands. 

During this time, C&EN has been committed to bringing our readers the latest about the coronavirus pandemic. Our focus, as always, has been to provide comprehensive coverage specifically on the work chemists are doing to accelerate development of treatments and vaccines, and how the pandemic is affecting the chemical enterprise. We have also been working to combat misinformation and ensure that members of the public have access to a source they can trust. 

For this reason, since January all our coronavirus-related content has been freely available as a public service for the duration of the crisis.

The response from readers has been tremendous and web usage numbers over the last three months have gone through the roof. January was our first record-breaking month. February blew it out of the water, and the trend has continued. To give you some idea: during March, the number of unique visitors to cen.acs.org was 160% higher than in March 2019 and 88% greater than February 2020. Toward the end of April, we have already surpassed our March numbers. Millions of people are hungry for rigorous and trustworthy information about COVID-19 and C&EN has become their destination.

Virtual events are another area where we have experienced tremendous growth. As people are spending more time online during the pandemic and in-person events are canceled, we have significantly increased the number of webinars we are hosting to provide additional opportunities for scientists to learn, share and network. And even when we have added more webinars to the schedule, average attendance for them has also increased several fold, which suggests there is untapped room for growth. 

The increased demand in C&EN webinars is also coming from advertisers, who are keen to reach and communicate with existing and potential customers during these difficult times. A quick audit reveals that at the end of March, we have already booked as many webinars for 2020 as we hosted for the whole of 2019! 

We’re also experimenting with engaging our audiences beyond the webinar format. During one week in March, C&EN hosted a four-part Twitter chat series on COVID-19-related discussions, including the impact of the virus on employment and the transition to online teaching. Well known influencers in our field – @ChemJobber, Jen Heemstra, Maria Gallardo-Williams and Fay Lin – were our guest ‘speakers’, answering questions sent to them online. This format proved to be a very effective outreach and engagement tool for our team, and we plan to add it as a companion to a selection of forthcoming virtual events. 

Other themes we have in the docket include which drugs and drug candidates are showing the most promise as COVID-19 treatments, and how COVID-19 is changing the way science is done: the future of collaborations, how scientists share their work, what tech they are using and more. Our latest editorially-led webinar, ‘Can old drugs take down a new coronavirus? The state of COVID-19 drug repurposing efforts‘ took place on May 6 with C&EN’s pharma editor Lisa Jarvis, blogger Derek Lowe, and NIH’s Matthew D. Hall.

Within the first hour after we launched registration, over 800 people had signed up. In total we had over 2,300 registrants, and 1,266 of them attended live, asking over 200 questions of our panelists.

While we have been encouraged by the sheer volume of new readers, we have also been very focused on serving our existing audience. For ACS members, we have temporarily expanded access to C&EN by including the C&EN digital magazine with their traditional print subscription. Aware that many labs and universities are currently closed, our digital magazine will allow them to keep up with our journalism and resources at home. We now have over 90,000 digital magazine subscribers. We’ve also invested in our mobile app, and released an enhanced version so our members can read their chemistry news anytime, anywhere, online or off.

These are just some examples of activities that C&EN has been undertaking as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And there’s more to come. Despite the uncertainty and the disruption, we’ll continue to provide timely, authoritative and rigorous reporting that our readers can’t find anywhere else. And our marketing teams are here to help our advertisers, too. If any science marketers out there are looking to revamp their own strategies, contact us at cenmediagroup@acs.org for a consultation.

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