Publishers have always guarded their archives, as one of the last bastions of online, fee-based revenues. There's been a nice and reliable revenue stream, but the rules are changing. There's even more money to be made in advertising now.
Today, the NYTimes opened up its TimeSelect business. Lost in the headlines was some interesting news: all archives back to 1981 will be freely accessible. Plus all public domain archives between 1851 and 1922 will be opened too. NYT will continue charging for articles from 1923-1980, which are likely wrapped into previously arranged re-distribution deals.
This is big news, at least if you're a publisher with any archives. Several key points of advice as you compete in the ad-based world:
* Accept the gauntlet that's been laid down. Think hard about whether you should continue with any paid or premium access at all.
* See if you are operating with any restrictions. Look at your old library or business deals, with Lexis-Nexis, Gale/Thompson and ProQuest.
* Take control of your distribution now. Figure out your widget strategy and other ways to make content searchable or available off-domain.
Most importantly, have all your domain ducks in a row. As you open the doors, make sure you optimize your organic and site search traffic. Actively feature or make content from your archives more "findable" when visitors arrive on your site.
If you're a publisher with archives, you possess ideal content for targeted, contextual advertising. That's a gift not to be squandered!