Google to put newspaper archives online

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Google has taken another step towards its stated goal of indexing the world’s information by scanning newspaper archives and making them searchable on the internet.

The company that leads the way in cataloguing online information has been stepping up efforts to digitise material created before the advent of the internet. Google Books has been gradually scanning millions of books from publishers and libraries, making the text as easily searchable as that of a website.

The newspaper-scanning project announced today will begin with a handful of North American newspapers, including the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, considered to be the continent’s oldest newspaper.

Large newspapers including The Times and The New York Times have already digitised their archives and opened them to readers, but smaller publications do not have the resources to embark on the labour-intensive process of scanning thousands of editions.

Google’s intention is that billions of articles from the past 250 years will eventually be brought online.

“We’ll be bringing online generations of writers,” Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products told the TechCrunch 50 conference in San Francisco. “We’re adding newspapers to the broader sweep of offline material we’re bringing online.”

Google will pay for the cost of scanning the archives of any newspaper publisher willing to allow the stories to be shown free on Google's website. Participating publishers will receive an unspecified portion of the revenue generated from advertising displayed next to the stories.

“I believe this could be a turning point for the industry,” said Pierre Little, publisher of the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, which has an archive dating back to 1764. “This helps us unlock a bit of an asset that had just been sitting within the organisation."

Google declined to specify how many other papers have signed up or how much the company has budgeted for the project.

The archive articles will be shown in the same format as they originally appeared, allowing readers to zoom into stories and browse through the rest of the edition.

Finding the old newspaper stories initially will require readers to use Google’s news search pages, but archive newspaper stories should start showing up on Google's main results page within a year, Google said.

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