The disruptive effect of digital technology poses particular challenges to the publishing sector. Publishers react to these challenges by developing new business models that embrace digital technology and seek to seize opportunities for new ways of content distribution. Creating digital platforms for the distribution of content, publishers can establish a network that is attractive to contributors (authors) and customers alike. Substantial profit can be derived from the network if it attracts content providers because the database already has a large number of customers and, at the same time, attracts customers because of the large number of content providers.

For a profitable digital business model in the publishing sector, it is decisive to trigger this self-reinforcing process of a growing network. To achieve this goal, the traditional focus on marketing decisions based on supply-side factors must be abandoned. It is no longer the successful pre-selection of content and clever bargaining with printers that guarantees a profit, but the creation of a content platform capable of generating the described network effect. Hence, the demand side becomes more important. For the growth of the network, it is indispensable to attract customers as well as content providers. The publisher must create a match between the two groups.

As a result, new business models broaden the range of a publisher’s activities. Instead of focusing on the commercialization of individual publications, new business models require a strategy that uses publications strategically to build a user community around the offer of information products. This implies that publishers with new business models become media entrepreneurs with a broad spectrum of information offers and communication channels. The publication of a newspaper, magazine, journal or book no longer constitutes an end in itself. It is only the starting point for a broader offer of related products and services.

Considering the initiatives taken by publishers to adapt their traditional business models to the digital environment, the question arises which amalgam of legal protection regimes should be applied to provide a sufficient incentive and reward for the transition to platform-based business models in the publishing sector. Insofar as new business models are not primarily based on the commercialization of individual content but on the exploitation of a publisher’s particular reputation or concept for an information database with added value, this question must not be confined to traditional copyright protection of individual literary and artistic works. By contrast, additional protection regimes in the field of intellectual property enter the picture, in particular trade mark protection and sui generis database rights.

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Erasmus School of Law

Senftleben, M., Kerk, M., Buiten, M., & Heine, K. (2017). From Books to Content Platforms – New Business Models in the Dutch Publishing Sector. Retrieved from