Mining GoldFrom Yesterday's News

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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