About four years ago I started paying attention to MDPI on the back of starting to look at Walt Crawfords amazing annual Open Access reports. (https://waltcrawford.name/goaj.html). The rate of revenue growth was astonishing, and over the next few years it continues. I truly thought at the time that maybe the existing journal model was over. Sure, the peer review was not the same, maybe a bit lax, but on the other hand it was meeting a demand from academics, and after all, all we do is in the service of the academic enterprise, if all researchers flip to this model, then that’s it, game over, providing fast efficient throughput above all else, game over.
Well, it looks like that growth model might have hit its natural boundaries. MDPI growth has stalled, Hindawi has gone through a very turbulent time over the last few years, and now this week Frontiers is announcing what looks like to be 600 layoffs (from a staffing level of 2000) - https://www.frontiersin.org/news/2024/01/10/the-next-chapter-for-frontiers-to-the-open-access-tipping-point.
These organisations - MDPI, Frontiers, Hindawi, have done a lot right over the last few years, and have clearly met a demand that older publishers are failing to meet, but I am not now worried that they represent the only viable model. They must have been able to cater to a new cohort of academics that we need to serve better, but other drivers of needs are not being met by their offer either at this time. It would be great to see what percentage of their authors are unique to them, or are published first by them, and then what percentage of those go on to have a wider publishing journey.
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publishing industry, economic trends, open access, academic research, business analysis