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Google News Archive

Updated on April 18, 2007

News from the Past

Google is rapidly becoming the world's library. While everyone is focusing on their massive book project, Google continues to roll out specialized search vehicles for scholars, teachers, for images, news archives, etc. Even though you can go to and search the web in general for many of these things, the more focused services allow you to concentrate your searches on specific types of information sources.

Brick and mortar libraries usually allow one to search their collection by Title, Author or Keyword, but they are also physically organized with fiction in one area, non-fiction in another, current periodicals in another, etc. The larger the library the greater the collection and the more specialized the physical divisions. One of the enjoyable advantages of a brick and mortar library is the ability to simply wander through the stacks in a particular section and discover new things by simply pulling and leafing through books at random. Google and others who are digitizing and publishing the world's knowledge on the web are in the process of creating the same browsing process on the web with one big difference – the web never closes.

Google News allows the user to search news sources for news articles available from media sites on the web. Instead of doing a random search on a topic you can restrict the search to current news media content on the topic. Recently Google added an Archives Search feature to its news site that allows one to to find articles published in newspapers and magazines as long ago as 200 years or more.

While the Google News search runs ads on the results and content pages, the results and content pages for the Archive Search portion of Google News does not run any Google Ads, although the owners of the content sites can run their own ads on these content pages. Another feature of the Archive Search is that a large number of the content pages charge for access to the articles. However, it is the content owner, not Google, which is levying the charge. The fees are generally less than $5 for an article and and most sites offer subscriptions to people who plan to use their site on a regular basis. Like the Google Books project, when a searcher clicks on an article, a page comes up with an abstract of the article which gives the researcher an idea of the content. The searcher can then pay to gain access to the article to read and download it or look for something else.

Anyone who is familiar with the sites for major media will have noticed that most of them require registration, which is usually free, and most provide contents of recent editions free. However, the free content is usually limited to the last 30 days or so and fees are charged for the articles from their archives. It is these archive sections of the media sites that the Google News Archive search takes people to. For very old materials, there are companies which have scanned the old copies of both existing and no longer existing publications. Many of these companies began by providing microfilm copies of old newspapers to libraries and then migrated to the web when it came along. By partnering with Google, these companies have expanded their business to include the mass market as well as serving their primary market which consists of libraries, scholars and other researchers.

If you want copies of old newspaper and magazine articles that you find on a Google News Archive search but don't want to pay for them, there are some ways to access them for free. There are some media companies, Time Magazine for instance, which provide access to all of their content for free. For these, one simply clicks on the article and gets immediate access to read and/or download a copy. For others that charge, one can often obtain free access via a local public library or college library. Libraries often subscribe to these content services so that their patrons can access the content at no charge through the library's subscription (this is legal). In order to do this, one has to have an affiliation with the library. Since I teach at the local community college and, being a resident of the county in which I live, also have the right to apply for a free library card from the local library, I have access to this content from any computer in the world simply by using my college or library ID numbers to enter the college or Tucson Library site and then access their subscription services. Many college and public libraries also allow free access, on a space available basis, to anyone who comes in to the library itself during their hours of business. So, with a little effort, one can find an article using a Google News Archive search, note the article name, date, name of newspaper or magazine that first published it and the name of the service that provides the digital copy. With that information you can then either log into the site of a library to which you have membership rights or physically travel to a nearby library and hope that they both subscribe to the service that you need and that their subscription includes the newspaper or magazine in which the article you want was published. Even if you do have to pay for the article, the fee is considerably less than the time and money that people just a few years ago would have had to spend to travel to a library, in another city, state or country, to access these materials.

Newspaper and, to some extent, magazine articles are part of the raw material of history. Here is how people viewed and interpreted events at the time they were occurring and before the events were fully played out and people had time to reflect upon and interpret them. At the time many news articles were written, at the start of a war or some other major event, people did not know what would happen and thus, viewed these events differently than we, who have the benefit of hindsight, view them now. So, when you have some time, take a few minutes and surf around the Google News Archive to see what you can find.


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    • bobmnu profile image

      bobmnu 11 years ago from Cumberland

      Another interesting Hub Page.