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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 6, 2013 5 years ago

Keep the news alive

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Newspapers contain rich content that genealogists, historians and academics value. Naples-based NewsBank archives newspaper stories dating back hundreds of years.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Who says newspapers are dead?

Naples-based NewsBank lives up to its name: It has built a bank of 2 billion newspaper articles since it began operations 41 years ago as a small microfiche distributor. “We've digitized newspapers going back to the 1600s,” says Dan Jones, the founder and president of NewsBank.

This treasure trove of news is hugely valuable to historians, genealogists and other researchers because it's been digitized. That means the content is searchable online via computer, producing results to queries that might have taken days or longer in the old days.

Every month, the companies digitize 800,000 new pages from more than 8,000 newspapers. While daily newspapers have struggled, the growth has come from community newspapers and non-print news available on the Web.

“Everybody wants their local news,” says Jones, whose company now employs about 375 people in Naples and other locations including Chester, Vt., and El Paso, Texas.

For example, a television station might publish a transcript of news on its website that its reporters read on the air. And local-news websites such those published by Examiner.com are also valuable to researchers ranging from law firms to corporations and academics.

The Internet has given greater access to publishing, a field once limited to those who owned the big presses. Now, there's a proliferation of community-generated news by people outside of journalism. “We'll see more and more of that,” Jones says, providing more opportunities to archive content.

College newspapers also contain plenty of news about people and communities. “We digitized The Daily Northwestern to 1876,” says Jones of his alma mater's newspaper. “We just signed the rights yesterday of the FGCU Eagle,” he adds.
Customers include libraries, which subscribe to NewsBank so patrons can research local history, genealogy and other historical pursuits. This service also gives libraries a way to remain relevant in the age of Google searches. “It's given the libraries something that you can't get anywhere else,” says Jones, who declines to disclose NewsBank's annual revenues.

NewsBank pays royalties to the publisher (including the Observer Media Group, parent of the Business Observer) and it charges libraries, schools and universities for access. NewsBank doesn't disclose what it charges customers because it varies. “Our prices are based on the size of the community and the library,” says Jones.

NewsBank also created a website for genealogists and the public called GenealogyBank.com. Using this service, which costs $56 a year, genealogists can search for birth and death announcements from more than 500,000 issues of more than 1,300 historical U.S. newspapers. The company offers the full text of more than 22 million obituaries published since 1977. “This information is key to genealogists,” says Jones, noting that these articles aren't available on other genealogy websites.

The U.S. isn't the only market where NewsBank is selling content. “We sell current news content all over the world,” says Jones, noting that the company archives more than 2,000 non-U.S. sources currently. The largest markets overseas are the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. “International is a good market,” Jones says.

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