Researchers (Nel 2010) have pointed out that while few concepts in business today are as widely discussed as the concept of business models, it is also a concept that is often misused (Picard, 2000), poorly understood, particularly in the context of the Web (Rappa, 2001), and seldom systematically studied (Weill et al., 2004).
A major obstacle in classifying digital business models is that many are still evolving, changing rapidly and dynamically (Wang and Chan, 2003). Evolving digital business models may render the taxonomy of today obsolete tomorrow. Those wanting to understand the range of perspectives on businesses models are advised to step back from the business activity itself to look at the basis and the underlying characteristics that make commerce in the product or service possible (Chaharbaghi et al., 2003). These scholars argue that an essential first step is to acknowledge the models we employ are rooted in the underlying assumptions and context that govern their creation: ‘‘It is this relationship that determines the meaning, legitimacy and impact of models’’ (2003, p. 372). They observe business model waves which they liken to Kuhnian paradigmatic shifts, where ‘‘a series of peaceful interludes [is] punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions’’ (Kuhn, 1996). They note that in both science and business one conceptual worldview periodically replaces another and that, ‘‘as with all successful business model waves, what emerges is a view on how best to conduct business, an ideal, which promises a panacea to current business developments and pressing problems’’ (Chaharbarghi et al., 2003, p. 372).
Against that background, they propose a meta business model consisting of three interrelated strands: (1) the way of thinking; (2) the operational system; and (3) the capacity for value creation. The researchers caution that while the distinction of each is essential for explaining the concept of business, using each of these strands ‘‘will lead to a dead end’’ (Chaharbarghi et al., 2003, p. 375).
With that in mind, an exploration of the changing business models of newspapers would need to consider not only the activities in which the companies are engaged, but also the mindsets that inform them and how the context influences the outcomes of those efforts.