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Am Fam Physician. 2008;77(6):738

If you have done online research, you have probably run into a message like this more than once: “Access to this item requires a subscription to the journal.” Many medical associations restrict online access to their journals to association members and paid subscribers. The AAFP has always bucked the trend, making the content of American Family Physician and Family Practice Management freely available to anyone. But the logic of limiting access to members and others who pay for the privilege has finally persuaded the Academy to limit access a little.

Starting in April, the most recent year's worth of online content for the two journals will be available only to AAFP members and those who pay to subscribe. This will leave the bulk of the AFP and FPM archives freely available. About one year after each issue is published it will be added to the open online archive. While members and subscribers will have to log in to access the restricted content, a “remember me” option will allow users to minimize the inconvenience by making login automatic after the first visit. The Academy hopes that exclusive access to new content will outweigh the added inconvenience in members' minds and that the large and growing open archive will continue to be of service to members and others.

The access controls shouldn't affect searchability of the journal Web sites. Whether the user searches with, say, Google or with AFP's own search engine, the search results will include both restricted and open content, and the AFP search engine, at least, will identify which search results are restricted and which are open.

Online Advertising in Archived Journal Content More Than One Year Old

Also beginning in April, AFP and FPM will begin to carry advertising on the journal Web sites. In accepting advertising, as in limiting access to some online journal content, the Academy will be doing what most other medical associations began doing years ago. Recognizing that online ads can be annoying, the organization held off for several years, but in today's economy it would be irresponsible to ignore this potential source of non-dues revenue.

Still, the ads will appear only on content available in the open archive; the most recent year's worth of issues will continue to be ad free. This serves a double purpose: It affords members and subscribers a year of ad-free access to new issues and it keeps ads out of the issues for which continuing medical education (CME) credit is available. This is the online equivalent of AFP's practice of keeping advertisements out of CME articles in the print journal to keep promotion and education properly separate.

Moreover, the Academy is taking steps to ensure that the online ads are appropriate and relatively unobtrusive. AAFP staff will prescreen ads to ensure that they follow the rules we subject print ads to (for instance, that ads be in harmony with the subject matter of the journal and that advertised products subject to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration be in fact approved). We will not accept the more intrusive types of online ads, such as those that pop up in separate windows or expand across the page when you happen to move your mouse over the ad. Nor will we break articles over several Web pages, each with its own ads, as some publications do. And one virtue of the new Web site design that Joyce Merriman introduced in this space in the March 1 issue is that its visually calm look, with wider pages, less clutter and better navigation, will accommodate ads in a way that doesn't interfere with the main point of all this: making sure AFP online remains the go-to source for the clinical information you need.

If you have comments about any of the coming changes, you can e-mail them to the Academy at Your views are important.

editor's note: This is an expanded version of Edsall RL. Changes coming to FPM online [From the Editor]. Fam Pract Manag. March 2008;15(3):5.

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Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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