Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Who wants yesterday's papers?

Dan Gillmor asks why newspapers lock up their archives. He makes the point that there may be more financial gain to contextual advertising on open archives than pay-per-view access. More important, as
Simon Waldman pointed out a few weeks back:

"Permanence is about ensuring you have a real presence on the Net. It is a critical part of having a distinctive identity in an increasingly homogenous landscape. It is about becoming an authority and a point of reference for debate. It is about everything we want and need to be. Without permanence you slip off the search engines. Without permanence, bold ideas like "news as conversation" fall away, because you're shutting down the conversation before it has barely started. Without permanence, you might be on the web, but you're certainly not part of it.

"Here's another example. Think of all the millions of words written by news organizations around the world about Abu Ghraib during 2004. Now go to Google and search (as suggested in the Wired article above) for Abu Ghraib, and you will find only a handful of traditional media outlets mentioned in the first few pages (fortunately, the Guardian is one). This isn't just a quirk in Google's search algorithm; this is about traditional media ceding responsibility for providing the definitive, permanent record of major events."

Dan says:

"One of these days, a newspaper currently charging a premium for access to its article archives will do something bold: It will open the archives to the public -- free of charge but with keyword-based advertising at the margins.

"I predict that the result will pleasantly surprise the bean-counters. There'll be a huge increase in traffic at first, once people realize they can read their local history without paying a fee. Eventually, though not instantly, the revenues will greatly exceed what the paper had been earning under the old system. Meanwhile, the expenses to run it will drop.

"And, perhaps most important, the newspaper will have boosted its long-term place in the community. It will be seen, more than ever, as the authoritative place to go for some kinds of news and information -- because it will have become an information bedrock in this too-transient culture."

Dan links to Jay Rosen's post about the Blogging and Journalism conference, wherein he says that open archives are THE key issue to watch:

"For those who wonder whether Big Journalism can change itself and get with the more open language of the Web, the key issue to watch--the signal for a big switch in philosophy--is the archive policy. My suggestion: Open archive, permanent url's, free public access, make your money off smart advertising keyed to search, plus added-value services that make sophisticated use of the data in the archive, which you know better than anyone else because you own it and create it. Weinberger: "Jay calls upon journalists to demand this."

"In fact I do. But not just to demand it-- get involved in trying to figure this thing out so that the open archive pays for itself, or even makes money."