Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Google partnering with ProQuest & Heritage - Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the partnership between Google, ProQuest and Heritage. The ProQuest press release states:

"Newspapers are the lifeblood of every community-with a wide ranging interest for a myriad of users. The demand for digitized newspaper archives is clearly there. The problem is it that, until now, finding a workable economic model for libraries and publishers has been challenging," said Rod Gauvin, ProQuest senior vice-president of publishing. "This model overcomes that hurdle, unlocking a wealth of content for libraries and internet users with unique research needs."

The ProQuest/Google partnership does not impact ProQuest's other digital newspaper offerings such as its acclaimed ProQuest Historical Newspapers, which will continue to be strongly developed for use by serious researchers. Users of such products require robust application and search tools provided by the power of the ProQuest platform. The content delivered via Google's platform will be supported with a variety of advertising and e-commerce models that are standard in an open web context.

ProQuest will contribute content to the partnership, and will introduce newspaper publishers nationwide to the program. ProQuest will also supply from its microfilm vault newspaper content that can be delivered effectively in the less formal framework of the open web. The company currently holds more than 10,000 newspaper titles, most of which are pristine master film copies. This high level of microfilm quality allows for the creation of better scanned images, which will ultimately deliver more accurate OCR results for users.

While ProQuest's film vault will be tapped, the open web model does not replace or diminish ProQuest's commitment to microfilm. "The open web program is about access to content and has no impact on preservation, where microfilm is the 'gold standard,'" said Mr. Gauvin. "Microfilm is a technology-neutral format, so no matter the state of future technology, anything preserved on it can be read and stored effectively. It's an essential for preserving local history and culture, as well as the world's scholarship."

The work of the ProQuest/Google partnership commences immediately and is expected to be ongoing over multiple years.

The press release only talks about the microfilm content that ProQuest owns. ProQuest owns a lot of other content and so I will continue to wonder if this partnership could lead to something else between the company and Google.

Heritage, which creates microfilm and also can scan microfilm, does not have a press release on its web site about this partnership. Heritage owns NewspaperARCHIVE.com which boasts:

Easily Find Over 2.90 Billion Names • Over 968.76 Million Articles Search 89.7 Million Pages • 760 Cities • 240 Years • 2,905 Titles

Raymond McInnis asked in his comment on yesterday's post:
what impact, do you suppose, google will have up newspaperarchive.com?
Okay, so let's assume that Heritage is not willing to open up its NewspaperARCHIVE and let people have access to the content for free. Heritage could be the company that does the actual digitizing of the microfilm. And they could allow their newspapers to be indexed by Google so that searches through Google would find newspaper content that Heritage owns. Both of those would be a "win" for the company at least for the near-term.

Finally, I want to point to comments made by Stephen Arnold in his blog. I've known Steve for many years and trust his opinion. He has a keen insight into the search market and has been watching Google closely (and writing about them). Steve made three points in his blog post about this announcements:
  • First, you can kiss most commercial database publishers’ as great investments good bye.
  • Second, you can ignore those Monday Night Football ads from Thomson Reuters.
  • Third, the yip yap of competitors, advertisers, and Google critics won’t make a single iota of difference to what Google is doing.
If I take his comments into account (and you should read the entire blog post), this is a short-term win-win situation for the companies involved, but long-term this is a bigger win for Google. Google's service model has broadened the search market. Oh...but professional searcher don't use Google. Honestly, they're likely using Google more than they will admit. And if Google continues to add content and improve, wouldn't it be more cost-effective to use Google first and use the others if necessary? (And what portion of the search market are professional searchers?)

This will continue to be something to watch. I'll be interested in other people's analysis of the situation and what other companies do now in hopes of combating Google. If you have comments or pointers to information, please let me know.

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1 comment:

Rachel said...


Thanks for synthesizing this so nicely in two posts.

I think you're right to point out the short-term v. long-term views. And I think those point to the changing delivery/business plan model that has been figured out * by Google, Apple, and others, but not by traditional database providers.

As a mostly non-professional researcher, it doesn't make financial sense for me to pay $100 +/- for an annual subscription to NewspaperARCHIVE.com (especially considering their thin Oregon coverage). But, I would be willing to pay $2.00 +/- per article. Same for research articles. And, I've already purchased a dozen or more books based on the preview that I was allowed through Google Books.

Maybe it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition, but an acknowledgement of a changing business dynamic and finding a successful middle ground.

Thanks again!

*I recognize there are many critics of the "cafeteria plan" (iTunes) or "ad revenue model" (Google) who believe it won't work long term.