The economics of archives

Newspaper archives online are a useful source of long tail revenue … right? Well, maybe, once you’ve paid for the digitisation of older content. But does it ever wash its face? Not according to this article which claims the idea of charging for archives only encourages people to go elsewhere.

So along comes Google with a ‘friendly’ offer to digitise the world’s newspaper archives for any newspaper publisher willing to permit the stories to be shown for free on Google’s website.

And the catch is … ?

“The participating publishers will receive an unspecified portion of the revenue generated from the ads displayed next to the stories.”

A complete copy of the archives will revert to the publisher after two years, but Google keeps the rights to index the content on their search engine.

Make sense?

It does if you’re Google. And it’s also fairly compelling if you have a decaying library of original copies going back a 150 years or so. But is giving away the heritage of our newspapers to Google really what’s best for the industry?

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