Business models for open content

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Most variations of business models around openly licensed content are made from the same building blocks that either push or entice the customer to pay:

  • a limited product converted to a full product
  • annoyance of ads removed
  • contracted support provided
  • extra capability provided
  • timed trial converted to unlimited use

The bottomline is, if you are not charging for the main product you make, the choice of business models is limited, and is also a function of a few other factors—the user base, one-time charge vs. on-going subscription, complexity of product or service.

An additional model is getting funded by an entity that is not the primary or sole customer, for example, funding from grant funds by Foundations, funding from the government (tax payer supported) or by donations from individuals (see item 1 in table below). In the latter case, the individuals may or may not be the customers, or may not be regular customers.

The table below depicts some of these models and provides examples (see note below).

Public Library of Science funded by Article Processing Charges (APC); any publicly available digital content from the United States Government (see Data.Gov)
The Noun Project
SQLite support
SQLite encryption and compression capability

One important point to keep in mind: Once a user has gotten an openly licensed content, there is nothing stopping that user from offering that content either without any of the original restrictions or with additional or different restrictions subject to the conditions of the original license.