ATG just learned about this attention-grabbing report from ITHAKA, the not-for-profit organization that assists the academic community take advantage of rapidly advancing technologies. ITHAKA has updated its 2009 investigation of sustainability strategies for twelve digital content projects. This new study, Revenue, Recession, Reliance: Revisiting the SCA/Ithaka S+R Case Studies in Sustainability, is required reading for anyone interested in the long term viability of digital resources projects. The report highlights the economic impacts of the last two years on the business models of these 12 digital projects. It includes the executive summary of findings plus “all case studies, framework and toolkit” for the newly updated study.
This new study reveals a number of themes “visible across the case study updates” including:
- In 2011, host institution support plays an ever-greater role in supporting digital resource projects.
- Earned revenue, though often a valuable part of a project’s sustainability strategy, was rarely sufficient to support the ongoing direct costs of the projects we studied.
- Identifying reliable external sources of revenue requires ongoing experimentation and iteration.
- The projects that were conceived with a mandate to generate revenue seemed more successful at this than those mission-based projects that attempted to generate revenue as a secondary measure.
- Whether a project is ‘mission-first’ or places a premium on generating revenue, aligning the goals of the project and the mission of its host is important.
- Staying small is fine, if the resource is filling a well-defined niche.
- Small at any cost is not the answer.
The updated case studies are informative, multipage discussions of the progress, new directions and initiatives, as well as the sustainability outlook of each project. Supporting charts and statistics accompany the findings in each case.
(ITHAKA is also offering a free webinar related to this study on Oct. 26th.)