An excellent article by Jim Stongill, touches on the opportunity through the digitalization of books, for our culture and history to be available and accessible through search.
Analogue content exists in multiple formats but it's in danger of being lost or just being too hard to find. Newspapers, over the centuries have been the chronicles of world, national, regional and local happenings they need to be preserved in our digital era.
Reading an archive edition of the New York Times or your local paper for the day on which you were born, or for some other memorable occasion, richly brings to life all aspects of social life at that time - the hopes and aspirations, the human achievements and tragedies; all the rich tapestry of human life. It's one thing to trace your family tree but it's much more meaningful if you can appreciate how your ancestors were living at the time - the media of the time allows you to do that. Of course, analogue records exist in libraries but it takes an awful lot of effort to find the content.
As the doors shutter on many newspapers and their offices and basements are hastily cleaned out, is anyone thinking about saving these incredible legacy records? Is preserving history worth the expense?
For over four decades, IDG has covered the IT industry worldwide. There is no other media company that has the timeline history of the developments in the industry, but even so, if you wanted to research some aspect of computer history, the archives are difficult to access. Ideally the information should be available within a search bar. To achieve goal, IDG worked with the Google archive project, to digitalize IDG's newspaper archives.
Google Archive took IDG's complete archives of Computerworld going back to the very first issue in June 1967 and digitalized them for free. Finding a complete set was a challenge in itself but luckily all issues were eventually located. Early issues were preserved on microfilm and microfiche, while later copies were available in print and more recently in various digital formats.
The cost of converting over 40 years of analogue information in multiple formats to digital is significant. Most publishers are unwilling to undertake the exercise if the revenue streams associated with archive content do not cover the conversion cost. Also, there are author, artist and photographic rights that were crafted in a pre-digital era that can present significant legal challenges. These rights issues unfortunately stopped IDG from carrying out a similar exercise for its computer magazines such as PC World and Macworld.
IDG was willing to place its content into the Google archive so the history of the computer industry could be freely available to everyone. The arrangement with Google included revenue sharing opportunities around the advertising that is delivered with the content.
I believe the Google Archive project is admirable and clearly fits into Google's mission of cataloging all the world's information but like too many of Google's secondary projects it appears to be languishing a bit and archived information is not as integrated into the main search results as it should be. I hope that will be addressed as the project is developed further.
Media owners, especially those where media properties have been shuttered or are likely to be, should consider if they want to help preserve history or allow it to be shredded. If the economic cost is too significant to absorb, partner programs such as Google Archive offer a free option. If publishers want to retain full control, believing that can better monetize the content via paid access on their own sites rather than via Google, then are a number of services that will carry out the digital conversion.
But it's not just the newspaper industry that should digitalize their archives. The B2B media industry has the history of the business verticals through newspapers and magazines.
Check your archives and digitalize them before it's too late.