Bad News for Commercial Database Vendors

December 9, 2008

Garett Rogers delivered a holiday surprise to commercial database vendors. On December 3, 2008, when some of the big guns in online news were handing our business cards to budget challenged librarians and documentalists, Mr. Rogers reported here that Google acquired from an outfit called Paper of Record the company’s archives of indexed newspapers. The Paper of Record’s Web site explains the purpose of the archive:

Conceived by electronic publishing and web pioneer, R.J. (Bob) Huggins in a local Ottawa, Mexican restaurant in 1999, is a Global pioneer of searchable newspaper image documents presented in their original published form. The Toronto Star, (circulation 650,000) became the first newspaper in the world to have its entire history from 1892 to present, digitized for the world to see and search. This revolutionary process changed forever how large metropolitan newspapers conduct their research and became the genesis for PaperofRecord.

My thought is that this acquisition may be like putting a toe in the water. If it “feels” good, the GOOG may start making commercial databases free to users. The content becomes a platform for the online ads. With commercial database publishers hanging on to an outmoded business model, the commercial database sector could suffer sharp revenue drops. Libraries will point users to “free” services and if these prove satisfactory, commercial databases may be starved for revenue. What can the commercial database publishers do to “slow” Googzilla? I do not have any bright ideas. Do you?

Stephen Arnold, December 9, 2008


8 Responses to “Bad News for Commercial Database Vendors”

  1. Rj Huggins on December 9th, 2008 9:04 am

    Stephen– Thanks for your note. was created to unleash a treasure trove of life for the past five hundred years. That’s exactly what the history of the newspaper represents. We approached Google in 2004 with this concept. From our initial meeting to the present it was clear that there was no other entity on the planet that had both the vision and resources to take the world’s supply of newspaper microfilm, (estimated at about 2 billion records) to a internet accessible product. As for ‘commercial’ database vendors this unfettered access only follows the pattern from a paid model to an advertising based model that allows you and anyone else to access a rich menu of information at zero or little cost.

    In a bigger information picture, sites like PLOS, Wikipedia etc, really bring out the immense power of the Web as an equalizer, in the information world and will only grow in popularity.

    Slowing this trend brings to mind a painting by the Canadian artist Alex Colville, who’s work depicts a horse, ears drawn back, running along a train track toward a steaming locomotive. The outcome is clear.


    Bob Huggins

  2. Dr Terence FitzSimons on January 28th, 2009 1:13 am

    Paper of Record was a splendid facility, bountiful and easy to use! You asked for the newspaper you wanted – and in a flash – there it was! The new Google archive site is a shocker…far from user-friendly, and precludes one from browsing the newspaper of ones choice…if it can ever be located!

    Dr Terence FitzSimons
    Ballarat, Victoria.

  3. Stephen E. Arnold on January 28th, 2009 9:40 am

    Dr. Terence FitzSimons,

    In my research for my Google monographs, I came across the phrase “good enough”. Perhaps that is the way to think of Google’s approach to some methods? Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Stephen Arnold, January 28, 2009

  4. Charles DeLano on January 31st, 2009 1:35 am

    I also used the Paper of Record for Sporting News material. I enjoyed it. Will Google put up all the Sporting News papers Bob Huggins put together ten years ago? I like to know asap so I can devour all the baseball trivia when the Sporting News was the Bible of Baseball. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

    Charles D.

  5. Angela Whitehead on February 8th, 2009 6:32 am

    Dear sirs, I am an older person & I have enjoyed paper of record for some time. I was sad when I could not get it any more. Now from your article it seams I cam get it? But how? I click on the old web site & it brings up a site but it dose not tell you how to use it & I put in a search & no news papers to choose from come up. Could some one tell me how to use this site? Angela Whitehead

  6. William Flood on February 11th, 2009 3:08 am

    Hi to all.
    I was using Paper of Record, as it was the best and simplest way of finding the full text of The Port Phillip Herald, a Melbourne, Australia paper. I am currently enrolled in an MA in History and was using this site a lot, and lots of it. From the 1840s till 1900.
    Could anyone with any information about how to find this paper let me know, as this new Google Beta News site is just rubbish.

  7. Stephen E. Arnold on February 11th, 2009 4:27 pm

    William Flood,

    You can always trying calling one of the trophy generation wizards at the Google. Just a thought to consider if you have the time, patience, and motivation to locate a telephone number and keep banging away.

    Stephen Arnold, February 11, 2009

  8. Elizabeth Janson on February 19th, 2009 12:12 am

    Using the Port Phillip Herald, from PaperofRecord. It was the only online source for was the best and simplest way of finding the full text of The Port Phillip Herald, a Melbourne, Australia paper.
    Now it has disappeared.
    What did Google do with their purchase?

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