Will newspapers worship at the ‘cathedral of free?’

Shawn Smith lays out some critical issues facing newspaper companies as Google has announced expansion of its News Archive Search to digitize more dailies beyond the New York Times and Washington Post:

“Hopefully, this project can help bolster newspapers’ online ad-revenue, which is recently growing at about 15 percent annually, but only accounts for about 10 percent of all newspaper ad revenue.

“If it does, the Google News-newspaper partnership will open up huge archives that the public may never before so easily accessed and could help communities better connect with their past.”

But will a really large swath of the industry sign on? That remains to be seen. News web sites are making more concerted efforts to drive traffic by creating topics pages. It might be unfair to present an ideal example of the possibilities, but the NYT pages are both vast and easily searchable at the same time. Rich and deep archives linking to its own content provide the real value.

If you’ve endured the time-consuming experience of sifting through clumsy microfiche colllections of newspapers at your public library (it’s been years since I did that) to find a hard-to-read article and hope for the best when pushing the print button, the potential of a digital archive sounds almost too good to be true. Whether pay walls remain are another question.

As it celebrates its 10th anniversary, Google, more now than ever, continues to solidify an edifice that Chris Anderson gleefully describes as the “cathedral of free.” He quotes Nicholas Carr, a noted Google skeptic, on the search engine’s “messianic bent” that might also sweep newspapers deeper into its maw:

“The Omnigoogle is not just out to make oodles of money; it’s on a crusade – to liberate information for the masses – and is convinced of its righteousness in pursuing its cause. Depending on your point of view as you look forward to the next ten years, you’ll find that either comforting or discomforting.”


One thought on “Will newspapers worship at the ‘cathedral of free?’

  1. I for one, support our omnigoogle overlords 🙂 At least in regards to setting information free. I think you’re right questioning whether newspapers will sign on to the project. Some publishers are on board, but without wide support, this might end up being a frustrating service. Hopefully community newspapers lead the way on this project.


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