Google Ends Newspaper Digitization Project

Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 13:18

Google emailed its newspaper partners May 19 to inform them that it would be discontinuing its effort to digitize the world’s newspaper archives and make them available online, the Search Engine Land blog reported.

The project, which was started in 2008, has digitized material from about 2,000 newspapers. Existing content, about 60 million pages worth, will remain online and searchable, but Google will not scan any new submissions. Newspapers can extend content with their own digitization efforts, if they choose.

Google said it would focus instead on “newer projects that help the industry, such as Google One Pass, a platform that enables publishers to sell content and subscriptions directly from their own sites.”

The Boston Phoenix lamented the project’s end, calling it “generally a good deal for newspapers,” especially smaller ones that couldn’t afford to digitally scan and index their archives. The paper speculated that Google may have ended the project because of a lack of page views or because the process of indexing newspapers’ columns and page jumps were more difficult than anticipated.

Curt Witcher, manager of the Genealogy Center at Allen County (Ind.) Public Library, told American Libraries that the materials Google has made available are well-used. “Anyone who’s familiar with historical research knows that newspapers are just vital sources,” he said, saying they are the most prized of secondary sources because “the fabric of the community is laid out in its newspaper.” While he expressed hope that another organization would take on the project, he said that Google’s involvement would be missed. “They have the reach and the resources that small and even bigger publishers don’t,” he explained.

ProQuest, which had partnered with Google on the digitization of publishers’ microfilm archives and contributed its own microfilms, released a statement May 20 that it is “working now with publishers to build more value for their historical content,” and that it “looks forward to expanding its foundation to increase opportunities for researchers and publishers alike.”