Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Economics of Digital Publishing

Tons of pixels have been spilled recently by people trying to figure out how publishing is going to adapt its profit model to the Web. The New York Times has finally abandoned its ill-conceived plan to charge people to access its opinion columnists online; the Wall Street Journal (newly purchased by Rupert Murdoch)—pretty much the only major popular-press publication out there that's managed to succeed with a subscription-only model for online access—is also rumored to be considering putting its content online for free. Why? In both cases, because they think that there is more profit to be made in attracting more eyeballs and in charging advertisers for access to those eyeballs, than in charging the owners of the eyeballs directly for access. People in the Web age have gotten used to the idea that information is supposed to be free, and freely linkable and Googleable, so that free discussions can take place around that information. (See: most political blogs.) And information that is not freely linkable and Googleable will be ignored, as both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have discovered.

So . . . what are the implications of that for libraries? For the amount of information that will be produced by organizations resembling traditional publishers? For the ratio of information-on-the-Web (that can be searched, indexed, mashed up, Semantic-Webbed, etc.) to information-only-on-dead-trees (that can't be)? I'm not sure that anybody really knows yet. But the people who write at the following links are thinking about it.

Representatives from the California Digital Library, Google, and Microsoft discuss publication and academic libraries in the digital age.

Dani Rodrik (professor of political economy at Harvard) asks, “Why publish in a journal if you can disseminate online?”

The Ithaka Report on University Publishing in a Digital Age. (Yes, it's several months old now. But I've been a little busy of late, so it's still sitting in a Firefox tab waiting for me to find time to read it.)

How Google Killed Web Subscriptions, which links to lots of other information about the death of TimesSelect and the rumored death of the Wall Street Journal paywall.

What will AdBlock Plus do to the advertising-supported free online content model?

1 comment:

john said...

Excellent post, digitization made huge difference in publishing industry and it becomes best tool to generate the revenue for the print publishers. Many of the publishers are following this trend as online readership rate is increasing rapidly. There are more benefits from digitization of publications when compare to traditional publishing. There are some companies like http://www.pressmart.net helping the print publishers in distribution through new technology mediums.