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Bring us your revenue models!

When Ithaka S+R first published “Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources” in 2008, we hoped to share some lessons learned from all kinds of online projects—including commercial models—with project leaders operating in the academic and cultural sectors.

At the time, we observed many project leaders at universities and libraries still operating in “research” mode, executing the promised activities of a grant to a high level of excellence, but not fully considering what might be required to keep the effort vital in the years post-grant. Pure research projects, after all, have a natural endpoint: publication in the form of a journal article, conference presentation, and/or monograph. The new digital outputs we saw, however, were starkly different: They might have involved significant investment to create digital content, created sophisticated tools to aid scholarship, and mobilized crowds of contributors. Suddenly, researchers were finding themselves cast, sometimes not happily, in the role of web entrepreneur.

“Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources” addressed the mindset needed for those eager to play on this field. It also outlined the different possible revenue models that could be applied to digital content: from advertising and corporate sponsorship to endowments, subscriptions, and host support. In each case, the paper offered an overview of how the model worked, the sorts of projects it seemed best suited for, and the potential activities and costs it might require

Today, there are more digital projects than ever in the scholarly and cultural spheres and greater demand to make them openly available. In order to help guide project leaders who are navigating this delicate balance, we are now revisiting this topic, with generous support from JISC, to offer our readers an updated assessment of some of the possible avenues to pursue when seeking reliable funding for ongoing operations. A paper will be published in fall 2012 and made available on our website.

Do you have a funding story to tell?

Have you come up with a creative solution to develop sustainable funding for your digital resource? Or are you just really curious about how a certain model works? Either way, we want to know! Please write to us with your stories of successes as well as struggles in order to inform others in the field facing similar challenges. Drop a note in the comments below, or to me directly at Should any stories be considered for inclusion in the final publication, I will follow up with you to discuss this first.

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