The non-profit operation, based in San Francisco, California, broke even for the first time in 2010; in 2012, it reported a surplus of US$7 million on net revenues of $34.5 million. Its cash-generating engine is the world’s largest journal, PLoS ONE, which is on course to publish more than 30,000 articles this year although its growth rate shows signs of slowing. The ‘megajournal’ business model has been mimicked by many others.
PLOS is now seeking a new vision to match its new profitability. In May, it announced the departure of chief executive Peter Jerram and the recruitment of his replacement, Elizabeth Marincola. She says that the future of science publishing is not in branded, highly selective titles. Instead, she sees a world in which article metrics and community judgements help the cream of research to rise to the top. “The packaging of a journal will become less and less important,” she says.
Reducing the $1,350 author fee for its lowest-cost journal, PLoS ONE, also makes sense tactically, says Joseph Esposito, a publishing consultant based in New York City, because it will make it harder for new entrants to break into the megajournal market. “Right now, PLOS is by far the scale leader. They should play that card now and play it aggressively,” he says.
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