Background - An Industry in Transition
After a window between the late nineties of the 20th century and the mid-teens of the 21st, when the STM industry grew its revenues by about 5% annually, available data suggests that the industry’s subscription revenue growth has slowed down to perhaps 1-2%. OA revenues have been rising faster, lifting overall revenue growth to 3-4%, still below the growth rate of a decade ago, but introducing a new uncertainty over the future revenue trajectory of the industry. In 2018, STM (a publishers’ trade body) estimated that growth in the next few years would average 4% annually, suggesting that contracts were still being signed at about that annual growth rate, but this growth is contingent on the outcome of many unknowns.
Will caps be introduced on APCs? Will hybrid journals remain viable? Will new contractual forms (offsets, R&P, P&R, etc.) lead to overall revenue growth? The paradox of the STM publishing industry is that it has very high visibility over its revenues in the next two to three years (because of multi-year contracts) and very little beyond this time frame.
It is not surprising that many publishers would seek additional opportunities for revenue growth, and leveraging data and data analytics is the most obvious “next step” for companies that already own vast amounts of research data, both in terms of content and usage.