New Publishing Times, New Deals

After seeing Ian Mulvany’s latest blog:, I was inspired to think about what new business models in publishing could look like. I wanted to share these to help our industry move forward in the way we sell, beyond the trade off open access deals.

My thought process starting point is the cultural and personal objectives of stakeholders in the scholarly ecosphere. Looking at the Academic Library, the Publisher, the University and the Vendors of related tertiary tools, I started to wonder what their objectives are likely to be for 2020 and beyond. Based solely on observation, my prediction is the four primary objectives below (votes on a postcard please to confirm or deny my assumptions!):

Academic Library – Easy administration including financial and an excellent, understandable user interface for patrons.
Publisher – A financially robust business model that will meet the needs of all stakeholders.
University – High in house researcher profiles with cost effective access model to content.
Vendor – Innovative with easy, cost effective integration with related systems.

Then I moved onto reflecting on the motives of the Researcher, the Author, and the Reviewer in the publishing supply chain.

Researcher – Prestigious profile to enhance career and attract funding.
Author – Publish to maximise citation and usage and raise financial standing through relevant route.
Reviewer – Ensure relevant to core subject, gain recognition and have a user friendly interface.

As the arrangements for open research access become more sophisticated, with the aim of meeting the institutional and individual objectives, it occurred to me that the future business models could look very different. Could we have a ‘Spotify’ for academic publishing? How would it work? Who would lead the transition?

I’ve also been thinking about the latest Sage experiment detailed here:

Leveraging a Transformative Agreement to Incentivize Funder Spend

I wondered if the following would also be workable ideas for institutional and consortia arrangements:

Portals of content with:

  • Timed access per user
  • Aggregated institutional access periods by individual user with tiered subscription model
  • Unlimited access but tiered download by user, pay to increase
  • Author trade off based on peer review contribution, author as contributor and number of articles submitted to OA aggregated to the institution for subscriptions allowance. Perhaps based on an ORCID and ringgold roll up.

To me these have limited possibility if each publisher acts alone and builds individual platforms. So I also came up with a series of ways to segment content in a different ways for individuals, which could operate separately or in conjunction with the institutional deals. With the growth and predicted dominance of open access, it seems to me that the revenue stream will shift from B2B to B2C, an administration cosmic shift across the industry!

The alternative approaches below should enable the individual reader to distill core and essential reading more easily, while allowing them to dig deeper as appropriate:

Summary excerpts from key subject areas
In much the same way as headlines on Flipboard, the reader can scroll through highlights and read further as appropriate; summary views could be free with a subscribed number of full text articles included per week or per month.
Quotation station for undergraduates
As an undergraduate, essays are often written after high level reading around the subject to obtain relevant quotes that justify a particular perspective. To assist in accelerating the process of writing, students and consultant researchers may find a corpus of quotes, tagged by subject and sentiment useful. This area could be available across texts and journals, specified by subject matter and appropriate category. The reader could be charged by batch of quotations, which countdown as they are used.
Most read passages from subject area or journal
Where a platform can measure usage by paragraph or section, it would be useful for readers to be able to view the most liked or most read passages. These usage statistics would highlight core reading for each subject area and enable the reader to focus their attention. This could be a unit of tools designed to assist the reader and charged in a freemium model.
Pay by depth and breadth
Lines of enquiry to generate serendipitous search pathways that are charged based on the number of articles viewed, or by subject territories that are defined by rich taxonomy.

The thing is that in order to have different business models, we need to build a new industry wide platform… It may even mean the big publishers have to share resources, ideas and build the nirvana of a central source of content. How that could be funded, staffed and managed is yet to be seen!

Thank you for listening.

Ruth Wells

P.S. A friend has just started a pretty cool publishing innovation blog which may also be of interest:

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