Google abandons plan to archive newspapers


In an email 5/19 to publishers, Google told partners in its News Archive project that it would cease accepting, scanning, and indexing microfilm and other archival material from newspapers, and was instead focusing its energies on “newer projects that help the industry, such as Google One Pass, a platform that enables publishers to sell content and subscriptions directly from their own sites.”

Google said, however, it would continue to support the existing archives it has scanned and indexed.

The Boston Phoenix, one of the papers notified, said the five-year-old News Archive project was Google’s attempt to do for old newspapers what Google Books has been attempting to do for the world’s libraries. As part of the project, newspapers opened their morgues to Google, which promised to scan, index, and host the digital files it made from the archives. Google and the newspapers would then share revenue on the page views of those archives. Google says it eventually scanned 60 million pages, covering 250 years.

Some newspapers complained that Google, after quickly scanning their archives, was slow to process the scans. The Phoenix sent Google a stash of archives covering several decades, and only a fraction of those have made their way online, the paper reported. 

News Archive was good newspapers — especially smaller ones who couldn’t afford the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars it would have cost to digitally scan and index their archives. But newspapers are difficult to index, thanks to columns and jumps, which require more labor—that may have been the reason for the abandonment, along with finding ad support harder to come by than first thought.

RBR-TVBR observation: Chalk it up as a contribution to preserving large swaths of history. The original deal Google had with partner newspapers said that papers could eventually purchase Google’s digital scans of its content for a fee. That fee is now being waived–even the rights to publish them with other partners.