Google Digs Into the Archives

The search giant will index 200 years of news content and give users the option to buy full articlesa potential boon to online publishers

One of the prevailing beliefs about Google is that its search engine inevitably devalues Internet content. Why pay $2.50 for, say, an archived magazine article when you can use Google to find a free (and possibly illegal) copy of it on the Internet? Taking that reasoning to its logical conclusion, online publishers of paid content are destined for extinction.

A new product being released by Google (GOOG) on Sept. 6 undermines such notions. Google News Archive Search will make more than 200 years of news content searchable to all users, the company says. The content will come from publishers and aggregators such as The New York Times, Time magazine, The Guardian, LexisNexis, and Factiva, many of which charge fees for archived content.

Clicking on a search result will yield a summary and—here's the part online publishers are sure to love—give users the option to buy the full article. "If I'm LexisNexis, it enables me to create an ongoing revenue stream from searches that lead to my content," says Allen Weiner, an analyst at researcher Gartner. "I can market to those people and up-sell to them." Contrary to the idea that Google devalues paid content, the search engine could increase the value of content and subscription services that users previously didn't know existed.


  What's more, publishers don't have to share the wealth with Google. The search-engine company will receive no payment from publishers' content fees, advertising, or supplying traffic. Search results will be ranked by relevance, without any influence from publishers. The results initially will be served without Google's customary sponsored links on the right side of the page, and at the outset, Google won't make money directly from the service.

So why offer it? Google's mission is to make all the world's information available. The more information the company offers, the more people may use its search engine. In addition, small publishers that participate in the service may choose to use Google's fee-based Checkout payment service to collect payments.

Google distinguished engineer Anurag Acharya did not rule out that the company might eventually add advertising to Google News Archive Search. But for now, he says, "we're focusing on making sure we get the functionality right."

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