Mining Gold From Yesterday's News

News operations upgrade archive systems to monetize the past

TV news has created
an invaluable video record
of major historical
events. News organizations continue
to struggle, however, with
the costs and challenges of managing
and monetizing the massive
amounts of video pouring
into their archives each day.

“News archives are the bridge
between the news of today and
history,” explains Clara Fon-Sing,
VP and general manager of archives
sales and strategy for NBC News.
“But you have to balance the cost
of maintaining and preserving [archives]
while finding new ways to
keep them alive and market them.”

That imperative to control
costs while gaining new revenue
has prompted some notable investments
in technologies to
make it easier to access and exploit
news archives.

In June, the Associated Press
completed a massive project to
digitize more than 3,000 hours of film and 29,000 hours of video
archives using Prime Focus Technologies’
content operations platform.
As part of a multimilliondollar
upgrade to its video infrastructure,
AP also deployed EMC
Corp.’s Isilon NAS system to increase
storage capacity from 800
terrabytes in 2012 to around 2.5
petabytes, explains Luke Smedley,
head of content operations for
AP Archive.

Alwyn Lindsey, director of the
AP Archive, says that the upgrades
were designed to help them better
serve broadcast clients, giving
them much faster access to archive
material and tap into new markets,
such as the growing demand from
online and educational players.

“It’s been a top priority to get
our most saleable archive footage
online and make it available to our
customers,” Lindsey says.

Learning Archives’ Value

News organizations have also
been moving aggressively to deploy
technologies to make archives
available to clients much
quicker via online sites.

One notable example of those
efforts can be found at NBC
News, which in 2011 became the first U.S. broadcaster to set up an
online site that allowed clients to
buy and download archive material,
Fon-Sing says. “It is part of
an underlying goal of opening up
the archives so our clients have
easier access,” she says.

To further improve those systems,
NBC News is currently
working with video company Latakoo
to develop a new content delivery
system. On a network level,
tech teams are also using a new
media asset management system
that will improve the capacity and flexibility of the archive system.

News organizations traditionally
have monetized their archives
by selling footage. But improved
archive systems are increasingly
allowing them to explore new
business models and revenue opportunities.
NBC has set up a subscription
service or the educational
market, NBC Learn, that gives
schools access to current and archival
footage tied to curriculum for
history, science and other subjects.

AP is also exploring subscription
models for access to its archives,
and many news organizations are
eying ways to tap into the growing
online demand for content.

Alex Wellen, CNN Digital VP of
product, strategy and operations,
says CNN is using more archived
material on the main
website. CNN recently inked
a deal with BuzzFeed on a new
YouTube channel where BuzzFeed
employees will use CNN’s archival
and current materials to create
video mash-ups. “It is a way
to introduce CNN to a brand new
audience,” Wellen says.

Many of these efforts build on
upgrades to newsgathering and
archive systems. CNN created a
digital catalog enabling access to
most content that has been digitized
within an hour for Web or
on-air use, explains Mike Toppo,
VP and senior editorial director
for CNN Digital.

Unfamiliar Face of News

Digitizing old tapes and tagging
the content so it can be easily
accessed remains a costly, time
consuming prospect.

While facial and voice recognition
technologies or closedcaptioning
systems have been
successfully deployed by Hollywood
studios to automate tagging
of older archives, AP’s Lindsey
says these are not yet suitable
for news content. “There are too
many faces to recognize and too
many languages for using speech-to-text systems,” he says.

That has made it difficult for
local stations to justify the cost
of converting old analog tapes to
digital formats.

Public stations, however, are exploring
plans to archive and preserve
the content they have created,
and networks including NBC
are working closer with their stations
to monetize those archives.

“There are a lot of important stories
that have a local angle, and we
are working with stations to find
content and make it more accessible
to clients,” Fon-Sing says.

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