For better or worse, our world is slowly being engulfed by the digital age and almost all written mediums are now making their way online. This has led to the advent of the ‘open access’ movement – essentially, making all scholarly material on the internet available to all. Peter Suber has described Open access as follows;
‘Digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions’
However, open access has relevance that stretches far beyond the world of academia. As an avid reader of several magazines, this blog post will explore the repercussions that open access has as far as the casual reader is concerned. The short presentation below sheds some light on some of the consequences that more open access material has had on the aforementioned industry.
As the presentation suggests, there are a multitude of factors to consider when assessing whether or not paywalls and open access have had a positive or negative effect or the magazine industry as a whole. However, some facts are known for sure;
- As the magazine industry has expanded online, competition has increased
- This increased competition is widely regarded to have had improved the quality of literature that is outputted
Open access has given rise to a new form of online reporting that has become the traditional magazines main rival and competitor – that which is free to use and circulate. This is in direct contrast with esteemed publications and new outlets such as givemesport.com offer short, easy to read articles free of cost. However this has its trade offs, adverts are far more common and the standard of journalism is generally inferior to that of its main rival.
Another undeniable truth is that ideas can be spread with far more ease and speed through open access. As openaccess.nl explains, ‘This triggers new research studies; it acts as an impetus for knowledge.’ This could potentially mean that the increased competition that the magazine industry has faced has forced to ‘raise its game’, becoming more competitive in both content and pricing. Indeed, many outlets have lowered prices, with subscriptions now cheaper than single copies, as the industry attempts to build a consumer base and keep it. The below example from National geographic embodies this well.
Interestingly, magazines as an industry have declined gradually over the last few years as the market transfers to web. This is set to change though, as the graph below shows.
As can be seen clearly above, one of the ways that the business is returning to health is through the sale of online subscriptions. It seems then, that whilst Open access has it flaws, it may have helped rebuild the magazine industry in a way we previously haven’t considered.
Word Count: 431
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