Why Newspaper Archives Remain Fee-Based
from the the-real-issue dept
Mark Glaser's latest article for the Online Journalism Review takes a look at the debate over whether or not newspapers should open up their archives for free. It includes a quote from Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital, scoffing at the idea they should open up their archives: "We're not about to give away something that the marketplace is paying a huge premium for already -- unless you could get a lot more than that premium in some other way, which you can't, believe me, there's no way. There's no analysis to show that Google AdWords gets you anything close to what we make on archives on the Web -- never mind all the money we make on the after-market sales. It's so ridiculous as to be laughable." Of course, that's making a few assumptions, which might not prove to be true, such as the idea that the only way to get other revenue out of free content is Google AdWords. Google AdWords is one solution, and an easy one, but like most easy solutions, it's probably not the most lucrative. If that's all the NY Times is considering, they need to hire someone with a bit more business sense. It also doesn't take into account the importance of how much influence a news organization has, and how they can lose much of it by closing off their content. Either way, it certainly does make sense for newspapers to diversify their revenue streams, and Nisenholtz makes the very valid point that internet advertising is a cyclical market -- and it wasn't that long ago that many thought it was a complete waste. Still, just because you should diversify, it doesn't mean the diversification choices are smart long term choices. What's most interesting about this article though, is that it reveals where the real money is in closing up archives behind a fee gate. It comes from deals with content database companies like LexisNexis and ProQuest. That, by itself, isn't a huge surprise -- but as the article points out, the largest buyers of such databases are public libraries, who turn around and offer that information for free. In other words, your tax dollars are already paying for that content -- but only if you access it via the library. Without that, closing up the archives probably wouldn't seem quite so lucrative. So, perhaps the answer is just for libraries to be more proactive in offering up article searches online -- though you can imagine that the original content providers might start complaining about that as well.