Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 11:00 UK

Old newspapers get online launch

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, San Francisco

Google digitises papers
Google said it aims to bring history online, one newspaper at a time

A new initiative to bring old newspapers that pre-date the digital age to the web has been launched by search giant Google.

The company has partnered with around 100 newspapers to digitize them and make scanned copies available online.

This means users will see entire pages of the original paper as they were printed at the time.

"This is huge," said Google's Marissa Mayer. "We're branching into a new form of content."

The company's vice president of search products announced the new feature at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco, a forum for start-up businesses pitching to venture capitalists and the technology industry.

In one part of the demonstration, Ms Mayer showed pages from the Rome News Tribune and called up a story covering an American moonwalk.

It showed the relevant story and other headlines, adverts and promotions of the day giving a sense of the times.

"The compelling part of the product for me is to get a sense of context and the importance of what else happened that day," said Ms Mayer.

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'Turning point'

The company created a new algorithm for the archives that will jump right to a specific article in the paper with related articles from other papers displayed on the right hand side of the page.

The technology for scanning the archives is similar to that used for Google Books. It expands on a two year old effort by the firm to work with two major American newspapers, the New York Times and Washington Post, to index old papers in Google News Archive.

"This effort will enable us to help you find an even greater range of material from newspapers large and small," wrote Google product manager Punit Soni on the company blog.

"This effort is just the beginning. As we work with more and more publishers, we'll move closer towards our goal of making those billions of pages of newsprint from around the world searchable, discoverable and accessible online."

Marissa Mayer
Making old newspapers accessible and searchable online

Google will run its AdSense advertising service as part of the programme with revenue being shared with publishers.

"We think this is really good for newspapers because we will bring online generations of contributions from different journalists as well as widen readership," said Ms Mayer.

The publisher of North America's oldest newspaper, with editions dating back to 1764, was in agreement.

Pierre Little of the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph told the Associated Press: "I believe this could be a turning point for the industry. This helps us unlock a bit of an asset that had just been sitting within the organisation."

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