The search giant is scrapping its ambitious plan to digitize hundreds of years of old newspapers
We work closely with newspaper partners on a number of initiatives, and as part of the Google News Archives digitization program we collaborated to make older newspapers accessible and searchable online. These have included publications like the London Advertiser in 1895, L'Ami du Lecteur at the turn of the century, and the Milwaukee Sentinel from 1910 to 1995.Users can continue to search digitized newspapers at http://news.google.com/archivesearch, but we don't plan to introduce any further features or functionality to the Google News Archives and we are no longer accepting new microfilm or digital files for processing.
The five-year-old News Archive project was Google's attempt to do for old newspapers what Google Books has been attempting to do for the world's libraries. As part of the project, newspapers opened their morgues to Google, which promised to scan, index, and host the digital files it made from the archives. Google and the newspapers would then share revenue on the pageviews of those archives. Google says it eventually scanned 60 million pages, covering 250 years.Was this cool? It was kind of cool. For instance, here's 21 articles about the Sex Pistols' final US concert in '78. And here's some fresh-off-the-press news from 1860.Some newspapers complained that Google, after quickly scanning their archives, was slow to process the scans. The Phoenix sent Google a stash of archives covering several decades; some fraction of those have made their way online.News Archive was generally a good deal for newspapers -- especially smaller ones like ours, who couldn't afford the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars it would have cost to digitally scan and index our archives -- and a decent bet for Google. It threaded a loophole for newspapers, who, in putting pre-internet archives online, generally would have had to sort out tricky rights issues with freelancers -- but were thought to have escaped those obligations due to the method with which Google posted the archives. (Instead of posting the articles as pure text, Google posted searchable image files of the actual newspaper pages.) Google reportedly used its Maps technology to decipher the scrawl of ancient newsprint and microfilm; but newspapers are infamously more difficult to index than books, thanks to layout complexities such as columns and jumps, which require humans or intense algorithmic juju to decode. Here's two wild guesses: the process may have turned out to be harder than Google anticipated. Or it may have turned out that the resulting pages drew far fewer eyeballs than anyone expected.