Characterization of an open access medical news platform readership during the COVID-19 pandemic

Abstract:  Background:

There now exists many alternatives to direct journal access, such as podcasts, blogs, and news sites for physicians and the general public to stay up-to-date with medical literature. Currently however, there is a scarcity of literature that investigates these readership characteristics of open access medical news sites and how they may have shifted with coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19).

Objective:

The current study aimed to employ readership and survey data to characterize open access medical news readership trends in relation to COVID-19 in addition to overall readership trends regarding pandemic related information delivery.

Methods:

Anonymous aggregate readership data was obtained from 2 Minute Medicine® (www.2minutemedicine.com), an open-access, physician-run medical news organization that has published over 8000 original physician-written text and visual summaries of new medical research since 2013. In this retrospective observational study, the average article views, actions (defined as the sum of views, shares, and outbound link clicks), read times, and bounce rate (probability to leave a page in <30s) were compared between COVID-19 articles published between January 1 to May 31, 2020 (N = 40) to non-COVID-19 articles (N = 145) published in the same time period. A voluntary survey was also sent to subscribed 2 Minute Medicine readers to further characterize readership demographics and preferences scored by Likert Scale.

Results:

COVID-19 articles had significantly more median views than non-COVID-19 articles (296 vs. 110, U = 748.5, P < 0.001). There were no differences in average read times or bounce rate. Non-COVID-19 had more median actions than COVID-19 articles (2.9 vs. 2.5, U = 2070.5, P < 0.05). On a Likert scale of 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree), survey data revealed that 66% (78/119) of readers Agreed or Strongly Agreed that they preferred staying up to date with emerging literature surrounding COVID-19 using sources such as 2 Minute Medicine versus direct journal access. A greater proportion of survey takers also indicated open access news sources to be one of their primary means of staying informed (71.7%) than direct journal article access (50.8%). A lesser proportion of readers indicated reading one or less full length medical study following introduction to 2 Minute Medicine compared to prior (16.9% vs. 31.8%, P < 0.05).

Conclusions:

There is a significantly increased readership in one open-access medical literature platform during the pandemic, reinforcing that open-access physician-written sources of medical news represent an important alternative to direct journal access for readers to stay up to date with medical literature.