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What Happens to Google News Archive Now?

This is not the first time that Google has killed off a product (see Google Quietly Kills Phonebook Search). The term used in the industry is called ‘sunsetting’. It works something like this:

- An announcement is made that no new content will be added to the product and that no new features or functionality will be introduced. Google has already done this.

- Staff working on the product will be deployed to other areas.

- The product will be allowed to age. A typical aging period for an internet product is 12 to 24 months. During this time, internet traffic to the product usually falls.

- After the aging period, the company will do a full cost/benefit analysis. The benefit is basically the ad revenue that is generated by users accessing the product. The cost is the cost of maintaining the massive database of over 2,000 historic newspapers.

- If the benefit exceeds the cost, the company will probably just hold onto the product and treat it like any other long-term revenue stream.

- If the cost exceeds the benefit, the company will look to sell the product to someone else. Alternatively, it will just simply shut it down. This is the possibility that should make genealogists nervous.

This is Marissa Mayer, head of search at Google describing the original business model behind the Google Newspaper Archive in September 2008. Marissa Mayer is now CEO of Yahoo.


What are the Alternatives to Google News Archive?

Fortunately, most major governments are involved in digitizing historic newspapers. The Chronicling America project from the US Library of Congress and the Trove project from the National Library of Australia are two prominent examples. Both are excellent resources for genealogists and incidentally both of these massive databases can be conveniently searched using the Genealogy Search Engine (in addition to dozens of other newspaper websites including the Google News Archive).

In the long term, we should see more historic newspaper content going online. In the short term, however, with the elimination of such a large player in the space it is likely that the rapid rate of digitization that genealogists have come to expect over the last couple of years will slow somewhat, especially for historic newspapers.

The genealogists who will get the real short end of the stick from Google’s announcement will be those who were searching for ancestors in less developed countries, such as the Philippines. The Google News Archive was one of the few viable online sources of historic information that could be used to trace ancestors.

Note: This article has been updated at A Restarted Google Newspaper Archive.

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