In an Open Access environment, it may be that the small, independent publishers and journals have the advantage - if they take advantage of relatively low costs to compete.
The average cost per article will be the key to assessing the affordability of an open access journal, regardless of business model (subsidies of various kinds, article processing fees, advertising). It is the small, not-for-profit society publishers that have the lowest prices for quality provided; if these publishers embrace open access, the larger publishers may find it hard to compete.
Current advantages for the smaller publishers and journals
Free Open Source Software and Library Hosting Services
There is free, open source software available, such as Open Journal Systems, that make it fairly easy for any journal to convert to, or start as, online and open access. There are many libraries involved in providing hosting and support services for faculty publishing. If you are involved with a scholarly journal, there is a very good chance that there is someone on the Editorial Board with connections at a publishing library that can help out.
The Flexibility of Small
A single journal has a lot more flexibility than a huge publishing outfit. If an article processing fee approach is to be considered, for example, one only needs to think about the costs of producing the one journal. For a large operation, assessing such costs on a per-journal basis is a very great deal more complex.
Free and Easy Marketing Advantages for Open Access
It is easy for libraries to include open access content in library services, ranging form A to Z title lists to subject guides to library catalogues. Indeed, without the need for authentication, providing library service to OA material is both easier and more reliable for libraries. This provides an instant, cost-free means for marketing of open access journals.
For indexing services, too, there are advantages to including open access material; subscribers to the indexing service can easily click through to the content, adding more value to the indexing service than an expensive publication with customers of the indexing service may or may not be able to afford.
This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access and Resources and Tips for Publishers Series.