Archiving the future: Reducing the uncertainty

By: Brad Buchanan

This is the conclusion of a four-part series by Newz Group CEO Brad Buchanan on print media digitization.

Reducing Uncertainty

With any new project of this type there is a great deal of uncertainty. One goal of this document is to put a skeletal structure on an idea that may have great potential, but has many inherent ambiguities. Uncertainty reduction can be viewed as risk reduction, and the lower the risk, the greater the opportunity. One way to reduce risk is to use proven technologies and operations that have been tested and found successful in the real world.

Newz Group is one company that may help reduce the uncertainties associated with a collaborative archiving system. More than 1,600 U.S. publications have archived content with Newz Group, and it has a proven text-searchable technology that is both powerful and easy to use. The Newz Group archiving system has been developed at the behest of, and in conjunction with, publishers and trade associations across the nation. A basic archiving infrastructure is in place and operational, which could potentially eliminate many of the hurdles outlined in this paper.

Yet plenty of hurdles still exist. Newz Group’s archiving system is PDF-based, with archiving of text files and video still in a developmental stage. It is not a 100% complete archive, because some publishers have chosen not to participate in the archiving program. There has been no test marketing to sell fully aggregated archives to the public. Finally, Newz Group is a small, family-owned company, with limited resources. Many aspects of the project indicate that a public archive may be more successful if it were owned and operated by a group that is owned by industry participants, such as a consortium of publishers state press associations.

In sum, many of the pieces for a nationwide, publicly-accessible, financially sustainable news archive are already in place, while many questions still remain. One thing is certain, however: the newspaper industry should move quickly to find a national archiving solution. Like global warming, the threat of lost archives may seem remote, but will probably catch up to us someday. Let’s begin archiving for the future, fix it before it breaks, and make archivists our BFFs before asking them to mop up the mess.