Google has shut down its five-year old effort to digitizes back issues of the world's newspapers. On Thursday, The Boston Phoenix, one of the newspapers participating in Google's program, announced that the web giant had sent an email to it and other publishers saying it is no longer accepting, scanning, and indexing microfilm …
Organize the world's information
>> Officially, Google is still on a mission to "organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful". But at the moment, this information does not include newspaper archives.
No newspapers, but surely their' indexing Twitter and Facebook, it's all good, innit?
>> No newspapers, but surely their' indexing Twitter and Facebook, it's all good, innit?
That's supposed to be,
No newspapers, but surely they're indexing Twitter and Facebook, so it's all good, innit?
It's old news.
Yeah, let's all forget the past
It's not like we can learn anything from it, now is it ?
...headlines that matter. Leading articles on political turmoil. Huge sports moments, things that could potentially be timeless (which even then might be junk). All the day to day stuff is throw away. If newspapers thought it was worth archiving it all, it wouldn't be on... newsprint.
That is a ridiculous attitude
Newspaper articles, particularly local newspapers are a treasure trove for historians and genealogists. This is an incredibly short-sighted decision by Google, did they really think that digitising the archives of even a single long lived newspaper would be a quick and simple task?
It's not on newsprint...
It's on microfilm/fiche. Because newspapers wanted it to last (and take less space).
The headlines/big stories/etc. are the things we really don't need yet another copy of. It's the day-to-day stuff that didn't seem to matter at the time--typically due to its ordinariness--that needs to be preserved.
Researchers are constantly mining old newspapers for insight into day-to-day, ordinary life. I'm currently involved in researching the local slave trade in the 1850's and newspapers are the primary source. News of slave auctions, runaways, etc. was all quite ordinary at the time and hardly the stuff of "headlines that matter" and would have disappeared if the entire newspapers hadn't been preserved.
We need an antidote to hindsight
Whenever the excrement hits the aircon (in any given system), it's incredibly interesting to look back over old news archives and see what the people who are now bleating and hollering for blood were saying a few years ago.
That's getting surprisingly hard to do, online. For instance, you try finding out (online): when Michael Howard, as home secretary, first proposed the national identity register, what did up-and-coming young talent (and erstwhile home office advisor) David Cameron say about it at the time?
You'll find some sources have disappeared completely and are now only visible as secondhand interpretation, rumour and deconstruction, often written years later with the benefit of hindsight. Even if you do find something that looks as if it was *actually* written in 1995, chances are it's been retrospectively updated to make the author or site owner look better.
Newspaper archives, stored on microfilm, are one of the few safeguards against the perpetual Orwellian rewriting of history that goes on around us all the time. Putting those archives online would have enormous value, and I still hope it'll happen eventually.
"Putting those archives online would have enormous value"
I totally agree.
It's just that Google, a private company, sees no value in it for itself.
Which just proves once again that private companies have a hard time doing things that are beneficial for anyone else than themselves, which is in their nature.
That is why we have associations and foundations - non-profit organisms who can do what is right and not what brings in money. Of course, they need billionnaires to fund them, but that is another issue.
often have subscriptions to newspaper archives that have been digitised - eg Infotrac and the Times Digital Archive which runs from 1785 to 1985.
That these are subscriber also shows why google was going to find it hard to do all the worlds newspapers - some of them weren't going to let it go freely
I wasn't even aware of this project until I read the article
So perhaps it's not surprising that it wasn't "successful". I mentioned it to my brother-in-law who has an interest in genealogy, and he found issues of a local paper that stopped publishing in 1871.
That's part of the problem with this particular type of content. The number of people who would pay for access is relatively tiny, whereas the larger number who might find it interesting occasionally probably won't visit quite often enough to generate advertising eyeballs.
Keep on digitising
@Pascal: not true - the company I work for is hard at work at the moment digitising newspapers at the British library mega vault in Colindale. It is hard work, but we can see the commercial model. And from trialling the early version of the web product, I can tell you that the minutiae of old newspapers is mind-boggling rich and useful.
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