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.

Reader Comments (rss)

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    identicon
    Precision Blogger, Feb 2nd, 2005 @ 6:49am

    Two obvious comments about the NYT archives

    First, we don't know how MUCH they are making by selling access to the archives. This could be a true golden goose, such that it's currently not sensible for the NYT to try anything else.

    Second, what the public libraries are failing to do is to consolidate and deal with the NYT together. If a thousand public libraries tried to make one contract with one respectable newspaper to get extended archive access, they might reduce the NYT's profit by 70% or more, and even make the current model questionable.
    - PB
    http://precision-blogging.blogspot.com

     

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    aNonMooseCowherd, Feb 2nd, 2005 @ 7:05am

    saving face

    Maybe they just consider it beneath their dignity to give something away.

     

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    lukethelibrarian, Feb 2nd, 2005 @ 11:25am

    What libraries have to offer

    Can you describe what "proactive" steps you feel libraries should be taking? As I mentioned in my post in response to Gillmor's article, your local library (SFPL) offers a tremendous selection of archival newspaper content, and is using a new type of product called "federated searching" that allows you to do a single search across multiple databases from different providers (such as EBSCO, Gale, and ProQuest). With that tool, you could execute a single search that could potentially include the archives of dozens, even hundreds of newspapers -- local, national, and international. Check it out at http://search3.webfeat.org/sfplAdvSearch.html -- I think you may like what you see.

     

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    David, Dec 25th, 2008 @ 5:20pm

    After the fact

    Hah! I never saw that Nisenholz quote before, but I wonder what he'd have to say these days, long after the Times has opened up the bulk of its archives content for free.

    Truth is, there's an enormous amount of free newspaper archive content available from around the world, as detailed at the Free Newspaper Archives pages at XooxleAnswers Research: http://xooxleanswers.com/newspaperarchives.aspx

    These are such revealing and important resources, that papers should bend over backwards to make as much of their content as possible available to the public, free of charge. The Times has taken a step in that direction, at least.

     

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    Kyle, Jun 27th, 2010 @ 4:53pm

    Yay but it's not user friendly *points to link above8

     

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    Kyle, Jun 27th, 2010 @ 4:57pm

    Backwards thinking

    What they should do is charge access for CURRENT articles and after 24 hours the article should be free in the archives forever.

    Right now it's new news free and archived news $$ so lets switch the thinking cap around and realize people will be more willingy to pay money for current *hot* news

    *as long as it is not junk which is a differnt problem all together*

    People are NOT going to pay $$ for old news unless they are either narrow minded or mentally insane or maybe both.

     

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