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Research Brief #4: Modernize to Improve Engagement
The Army’s publications are struggling to reach young officers, NCOs and soldiers. This is in part owing to their uneven transition to the social media platforms where those readers get their news. These publications can improve engagement by modernizing into web-first, mobile friendly platforms supported by active social media.
Low engagement, three ways
There is little sign of engagement with the Army's professional journals. This low engagement can be understood at least three ways: the lack of citation, low engagement on DVIDS, and their absence from social media are concerning.
Professional publications are not cited. Widely read and influential publications should also be cited by authors grappling with the ideas in the articles. Unfortunately, less than 3% of citations in 90 Command and General Staff College theses and 120 Military Review articles are of professional publications.1
Professional publications are rarely downloaded. DVIDs data shows that branch magazines averaged only *six* downloads per issue and 1287 "hits."2
Professional publications have weak social media presence. No professional journal has its own social media and journals are rarely mentioned on associated school accounts. As a result, in the noisy online environment where content competes for soldiers’ attention, professional publications barely register.3
Meet audiences online
Professional publications must publish quality content and meet their audiences online.4
Table. Overwhelming daily engagement with web and social media content
A recent survey of military authors found an overwhelming preference for online content.5 Of 116 outlets cited, War on the Rocks garnered 28 mentions, Military Review 18, and the Modern War Institute 17. Also, authors engaged *daily* with online and social media content (see Table).
Modernize to renew
To improve engagement, professional journals should improve accessibility by transitioning to web-first, mobile device friendly platforms and embrace social media—as Military Review has done.
Professional bulletins and Parameters should publish in formats easily viewed on mobile devices or desktops without downloading. For select audiences, print continues to demonstrate value.
An ideal future platform would natively share articles or podcasts of interest to multiple branches. This will ensure articles of broader interest like leadership or AMPV fielding reach broader audiences.
Effective social media drives engagement with content, connects with contemporary audiences, and encourages further written discourse.
See Zachary Griffiths, "Citations and Military Journals," Working Paper.
For Infantry, Armor, Engineer, and Field Artillery in 2022 and through July of 2023. Not all branches post issues with the engagement data available. "Hits" are online views, while "downloads" are downloads of complete issues. Branches each host their journals in different places and formats, though single, downloadable PDF is most common.
For example, I could only find five references to Infantry among Fort Moore’s tweets, and three of those tweets described a poem published by the magazine in 1956.
Seventy-four percent of respondents rated “quality of content” as their most important factor.
See Zachary Griffiths, “Lowcrawling towards Obscurity: The Army’s Professional Journals,” *Military Review* 103, no. 5 (October 2023).