US News Dumps Pre-2007 Archive, Putting A Proxy Paywall Between Writers And Their Work

from the maybe-some-heads-up-would-have-been-in-order? dept

One of the logistical problems facing long-running publications is the archiving of old material. I say "problem," even though some publications view it more as an opportunity to finally move paper archives to digital in order to preserve them (and even make money in the process). Others view it as dead weight and simply dump anything older than some arbitrary cutoff date (or lock it up behind a paywall). US News & World Report seems to fall into the latter camp.

One of Jim Romenesko's readers recently noted that the publication had ditched a lot of its previously archived material. When contacted about the now-eradicated archives, US News editor Brian Kelly had this to say:

“Last week we launched a new content management system and decided that we could not effectively keep archived web content published prior to 2007 on our site. Those stories, which mostly originated in the print magazine, are available on the LexisNexis and EBSCO archive services, as well as in bound volumes.”
If US News just wanted to paywall its archives, it certainly could have done so. (Not that that's a great idea...) Now it's being done by proxy via LexisNexis and EBSCO, destinations most people aren't going to go when looking for US News stories. Then there's the "bound volumes" Kelly mentions, which are only useful to someone in the vicinity of those printed copies.

The problem here is that US News' many contributors have now effectively lost access to their reporting work. It doesn't appear anyone was notified about the removal, at least not from what's contained in Kelly's statement. Presumably, those contributors have their own copies stored locally, but linking to a body of work (when looking for work elsewhere, etc.) just became a lot more difficult and potential outlets are far less likely to follow a link to a gated article -- and that's presuming the journalist will spend the time and money to locate their US News contributions in the first place.

There's no notification on the website telling readers that the site's archives only date back to 2007. (Not to mention, the website's search function seems to be fundamentally broken…) And it's not as though this was just a simple dump of everything pre-2007. The US News site has selected articles archived dating back as far as 1993. So, it appears US News has done some very selective archiving to preserve anything deemed "important." Everything else is in the hands of third parties.

A large digital archive can be expensive to maintain and show little return on the investment. But even if US News was uninterested in performing this service for its readers, it should have at least considered how it would affect its writers. If nothing else, the Internet Archive has been preserving previous versions of the US News site, and all without feeling the need to put a monetary barrier between writers and their work.

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  1. identicon
    Archive Everything, 21 Feb 2014 @ 9:48pm

    Access today = paywall tomorrow, so archive the hell out of everything

    Generally speaking, don't count on anything staying online. If you find some interesting trove on the web, something you'd hate to see disappear, then you need to archive it yourself, come what may, even if that means violating Terms Of Service or being charged with a crime under the computer and wire fraud laws.

    And you need to do it yourself, unfortunately. The problem with relying on the Internet Archive is they honor a domain's current robots.txt in such a way that the current or future owners can block access to the Internet Archive's stash at any time.

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