Even the longest running and most successful show on Broadway occasionally needs a facelift. In show business that often means changes in the cast, perhaps new lead actors and refurbished sets, giving a much-loved and familiar show a fresh touch.
The same is true in publishing. From time to time, even the most established and successful publication needs to take stock, renew itself, reconnect with its loyal audience and reach out to new ones. Just as a Broadway show might shut down for a few performances pending the new production, Science News is about to pause briefly before presenting itself to you in a new form, both in print and online. This is the last issue you will receive of the old, familiar Science News. The first issue of the new version, published as it has been for over 85 years by the nonprofit Society for Science & the Public, will be dated May 10, 2008.
We have signed some established stars to take new roles with us. Editor-in-Chief Tom Siegfried joined us a few months ago to lead us through this transition. In addition, we’ve hired Design Director Bob Gray, a veteran of National Geographic. Tom and Bob make a versatile and talented team, well equipped to guide Science News on its future course.
What will the new Science News be like? Just as “Phantom of the Opera” retains its script even through changes in the cast, the core mission of Science News will remain precisely what it has been for more than eight decades: to present concise, intelligent and credible summaries by the world’s most talented science writers and editors of the most important news in science across a broad range of disciplines. You will still be able to rely on each issue of Science News to bring you up-to-date on important new developments in science, in a minimum of time and with complete trust in the information you are reading.
The core mission of Science News will remain the same, but its presentation will be different. First, the look and feel of the magazine will improve dramatically. Just as the producers of a play might do audience testing before revising a beloved but musty show, before changing anything about Science News, we reached out to our loyal readers through mail surveys and focus groups. We found that even our most dedicated subscribers concede that the magazine’s design needed new attention. In response, Science News has been entirely redesigned in a clean and elegant new format. Science News will come alive, offering a much richer array of graphs, charts, diagrams, informational graphics and scientific images to accompany articles written in the same lucid and authoritative style that you have come to know and trust.
Beyond a new design, perhaps the most fundamental change will be in the relationship between our print and online formats. Those who have found their way to www.sciencenews.org know that it has been essentially a passive reflection of the weekly printed magazine. But the Internet has become an increasingly important source of news about science, especially for younger readers, and a static website does not fully take advantage of the opportunity to inform and educate those readers whose predominant source of news is online about new developments in science, and why they matter.
We found that many readers seeking science on the Internet want science news. Therefore, going forward, the new Science News ceases to be a weekly news operation and becomes a daily one. Our new and entirely redesigned website will offer the very latest in science on a daily—even hourly—basis. In addition to daily updates, our new site will offer many other rich features, including a searchable archive, blogs, columns and interactive elements. Much of the material on the website will be freely available to all users, but plenty (including the precious searchable archive of past articles) will be available only to subscribers.
Our readership surveys also revealed that one reason some folks let their subscriptions to Science News lapse is that the weekly issues piled up too fast and didn’t always get read. To bring those readers back into the fold and to take advantage of the immense new opportunities offered by the digital world, simultaneous with the re-launch of www.sciencenews.org, the magazine will shift from weekly print publication to every-other-week in print. To ensure that our loyal subscribers continue to receive all the content they have in the past, the number of pages per issue will more than double—from 16 pages once a week to 36 pages every two weeks. We will also introduce new features to the pages of Science News, including occasional commentary by distinguished science leaders.
We believe that the new format—a dynamic new online presence and an enriched biweekly print magazine—represents a strategy for Science News that will ensure the viability of our beloved publication far into the future … so it will be there for our children and their children, just as it was for us and our parents. The landscape of publishing has undergone huge change in recent years, and only an equally dramatic response will guarantee that Science News continues to be a vibrant long-running show, not one that might have closed forever. And this is one theater that is too important to our readers, and to society, to let go dark.
We are eager to hear of your reaction to the new Science News. A dedicated team of customer response professionals are standing by to take your calls and e-mails. Contact us with comments, questions or concerns, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time at 800-552-4412, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at 202-280-1132.
We are confident that after receiving the first issues of the new Science News, you’ll find that it delivers every bit of what you love about the old Science News—and more. We hope you like the show.
President, Society for Science & the Public
Publisher, Science News