Google To Digitize Millions of Old Newspaper Pages

Posted: September 9, 2008 in 2008, Articles
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Google is making searchable, digital copies of old newspapers available online through partnerships with their publishers, the company said Monday.

Under the ad-supported effort, Google will digitize millions of pages of news archives, including photos, articles, headlines, and advertisements, Google said.

Google's newspaper archive search and display effort is supported by ads, visible on the right edge.

Google’s newspaper archive search and display effort is supported by ads, visible on the right edge. (Click to enlarge.)

(Credit: CNET News)

“Around the globe, we estimate that there are billions of news pages containing every story ever written. And it’s our goal to help readers find all of them, from the smallest local weekly paper up to the largest national daily,” said product manager Punit Soni in a blog posting about the effort. “The problem is that most of these newspapers are not available online. We want to change that.”

The effort is of particular interest to reporters such as myself who’ve made the jump from print journalism to online. When I started at CNET News a smidgen shy of 10 years ago, I was initially concerned that the online medium was more ephemeral than print.

But as soon as I realized that CNET’s search box opened up our archive of work, I realized that online news actually is more permanent in many ways than a newspaper that’s almost invariably recycled or thrown away within a day of its publication. Few have the time and money to visit a newspaper’s archive of old papers, called the morgue, or flip through back issues in a state library’s microfilm collection.

The results of Google’s project initially will be available through the Google News Archive site, Soni said. “Over time, as we scan more articles and our index grows, we’ll also start blending these archives into our main search results so that when you search Google.com, you’ll be searching the full text of these newspapers as well,” he said.

Google didn’t reveal which publishers are partners except the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph and two organizations, ProQuest and Heritage Microfilm. However, examples of the service showed pages from The Evening Independent of St. Petersburg, Fla., the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, The Tryon (N.C.) News, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The project expands on an earlier partnership to digitize content from The New York Times and The Washington Post, Google said.

Google has tangled with news agencies before over who has rights to content. It settled a lawsuit with Agence France-Presse in 2007 and a similar suit from the Associated Press in 2006.

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