Back in March, the Harvard Library Office of Scholarly Communication (https://osc.hul.harvard.edu) published a preliminary draft of a literature review (https://osc.hul.harvard.edu/programs/journal-flipping/public-consultation/) on methods for converting subscription-based journals to open access (OA).* The report was open for public comment, and while the public comment period has passed, it is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in the future of scholarly publishing.
One of the major themes that emerges from the report is that transitional steps are useful, and often necessary, in the path from subscription based publishing models to open access. Often this is discussed in terms of hybrid OA, or publications that offer authors the ability to make their scholarship openly available, usually for a hefty fee. The success of this approach is highly debatable, see Björk 2012. (http://www.openaccesspublishing.org/hybrid/hybrid.pdf) Other gradual conversion scenarios include bundling article processing charges (APCs) with subscription licenses and flipping journals via delayed open access.
The Open Access Journals at IUPUI program has worked with several journals converting from a subscription model to OA publishing. Recently, we helped Metropolitan Universities (https://journals.iupui.edu/index.php/muj) make the switch. In order to facilitate this journal’s successful conversion, we implemented an open digital archive. Using a digital archive as a transition step allowed us to demonstrate the value of open access and digital publishing in a relatively low risk way, without disrupting the publishing workflows in place at that time. The journal has since started publishing new OA content. This strategy is likely to only work with publications that are currently available exclusively in print, are interested in increasing readership, but hesitant when it comes to digital publishing and open access. The more we see journals convert from subscription based publishing models to OA, the more likely we are to see new and interesting strategies for helping journals make his transition.
* The final version is schedule for release sometime summer/early fall 2016