Many signs indicate that the World Wide Web has become, among other things, a global newsstand. The way news is delivered and consumed is changing, and newspapers are losing their market share to online news sources. A survey conducted in June 2005 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press indicated the degree to which newspaper readership is dwindling. According to the Pew report “a third of Americans below age 40 cite the internet as their main source of news, and many of these people are reading newspapers online.”
The decline in newspaper readership creates a domino effect: reduced advertising revenues for newspapers, which leads to less news coverage of foreign and local affairs, which then causes a further decline in demand for newspapers. If newspapers do not actually disappear they are at least in danger of no longer being the “edition of record” or the prime venue for original news reporting.
This development will change the way news is preserved and made available to researchers. For decades, CRL has collected and preserved newspapers from all parts of the world. In this issue of Focus, articles about the International Coalition on Newspapers and the Foreign Newspaper Microfilm Project describe some of those efforts. Electronic news, however, is not “collected” by libraries in the same sense as news in paper form. Libraries acquire, catalog, microfilm, and store newspapers; and make them available locally for researchers to study. Users of electronic news go directly to the news site (or blog), or are notified of news reports through RSS feeds. Libraries license access to non-current electronic news content from commercial aggregators like LexisNexis, NewsBank, and Factiva. These aggregators ingest news text daily from thousands of media organizations like The New York Times and Chicago Tribune, index and annotate it, and deliver it online. Such aggregators have become the repositories of an enormous amount of the world’s electronic news content.
To “cover the waterfront” we include in this issue two articles that explore how the work that the aggregators do might be leveraged to help libraries preserve today’s news for tomorrow’s researchers: Victoria McCargar’s analysis of the news archiving activities of NewsBank and LexisNexis (and their limitations); and CRL’s exploration of the potential for large-scale digitization of world news.