Harnessing The Power Of Digital Features To Improve An Article’s Visibility And Reach

Digital features, also known as publication extenders or digital enhancements, refer to digital content that can be added to publications, for example, video abstracts or infographics. Digital features are not new to the world of academic publishing but are not widely utilized even though they extend the reach and visibility of a publication. What are these digital extenders, and how do they help with engagement? Read on for some answers!

Video Abstracts

Video abstracts are an excellent tool to summarise the findings of a paper in a digestible and easy-to-understand format. They can vary in style, but the most common approaches are

  • Talking head author summaries
  • Narrated slide decks
  • Videos using animations and narrations to summarise a manuscript


Infographics are a very flexible format and can be used as graphical abstracts summarising an entire publication or to explain individual concepts.


While infographics and video abstracts continue to dominate the discussion regarding digital features, the options are certainly not limited to utilizing only these options. Podcasts have seen increasing adoption as a tool to highlight either individual manuscripts or a series of publications.

While digital features have existed for several years, their adoption has dramatically increased in academic publishing, particularly in the medical space, as pharmaceutical and device companies look to maximize the effectiveness of their publication plans. As digital features often look to simplify or condense information into an easy-to-digest format, they are excellent tools for demonstrating the importance of a publication and improving its reach.


  • Data provided by SAGE’s partner Impact Science shows that on average, articles with infographics are read 4.6 times more often than those without.
  • Altmetric scores, a measure of a manuscript’s attention from non-traditional sources such as social media and news outlets, also inceased three times when an article included infographics.
  • Articles containing video summaries are read three times more often than those without, and Altmetric scores are, on average, 6.8 times higher.

A 2019 study published in PLoS* showed that video abstracts were the most desirable form of dissemination when reading scientific content, beating published abstracts, graphical abstracts, and plain language summaries. Videos demonstrated the highest scores for comprehension, understanding, enjoyment, and desired updates showing how effective they can be for communicating scientific information.

Though we have strong data on the effectiveness of individual digital features, their combined efficacy has not yet been explored, and as their adoption increases, this data will likely become available. However, it is very likely that a multi-pronged approach with digital features could be the best solution to improving academic publications’ reach and comprehension.

While the adoption of digital features across publications has drastically improved in the last few years, the vast majority of publications do not contain them. The question remains with demonstrable high levels of improved engagement as a result of digital features, what are the biggest hurdles in preventing adoption en masse.