How to pay to digitize a newspaper archive.

volume2It’s a question we hear all the time from small market and community newspaper publishers across the country. If they’re going to spend money digitizing bound volume newspaper archives, publishers want to know how to monetize it – how to get their investment back.  They know the online archive has tremendous value so how can they make money?

Many have tried placing the archive behind a paywall but few, if any, have found the success they expected. What has worked for publishers, is selling ads against their archive content – making money on the historical archives up front.

This year, we launched a program called Discover America’s Story that is helping newspaper publishers do that.  Participating newspapers sell ad sponsorships against their historic archives and that generates revenue they can apply toward digitization.  We then work with them to scan their bound volumes safely and intact and they have complete ownership of the newly created digital archive.  It’s a program publishers should take a look at if they’re eager to digitize but have put it off because of the cost – or take a look at some of the program’s case studies.  Check out for details.

**The site also offers free searchable access to dozens of small town and community newspaper archives you can easily explore online.

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Evidence of ‘parallel universe’ discovered in 1980s small-town Louisiana newspaper archive

BearsAt SmallTownPapers, we regularly monitor activity on our archive pages – we analyze which archives receive the most traffic and we work to understand where the interest originates.  One of the most visited pages got our attention big time – it’s the TV listings for one particular week in 1985.  We wondered why this has garnered such intense interest in recent days.

The frequently visited archive listing shows page 6 of the September 12, 1985 edition of a small weekly newspaper from rural Louisiana, The Ponchatoula Times.  What’s so interesting is that the item drawing people to this page is the 7:00 AM Saturday listing of “The Berenstein Bears” – sandwiched in between a show called “Snorks” and the James Bond thriller, “Never Say Never Again.”  Why in the world are people looking back 30 years at a listing of “The Berenstein Bears”?

The visits are coming from sites which are trying to determine whether the children’s book and television series is, in fact, the Berenstein or Berenstain Bears. What was it originally and when did it change (if it did in fact change)?  A Facebook page is dedicated to the discussion ( and several websites explore how the spelling of the beloved series might have changed over time. According to published articles, the authors insist the title was and is “Berenstain.”  Theories of parallel universes and mass memory distortion are explored as possible explanations for the dual spellings.  The discussion hit a fever pitch last month and links to the archive page have been strong ever since.

Perhaps most compelling to us is that, in an attempt to answer the question, people turn to the most trusted source available – the community’s newspaper.  They will search the archives, knowing that newspapers would have made every effort to ensure the reference was accurate.

We often think of newspaper archive access as most critical for people conducting historical research or genealogists tracing their ancestry – but the truth is that there’s so much more that people want to find in their town’s newspaper archives.  People want to be able to easily search through archives in a quest to answer a variety of questions about their lives, their community, and the world in which they live. Having easy, online access to past issues of a community’s history has uses far beyond the obvious.

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Helping Newspaper Publishers Digitize their Archives

Discover-America-Vertical-gold-blackSmallTownPapers has been excited about the reaction to our new program, Discover America’s Story. Small town and community newspaper publishers are delighted to finally have discovered an easy way to generate fresh revenue – money which can then be applied toward digitizing and placing their historic printed archives online for the world to explore and enjoy.

Participants work with our scanning division, ArchiveInABox, to have their loose printed and bound volume archives safely scanned so they are completely searchable online.  After scanning, he original hard copy archives are safely returned to publishers.

Check out the latest ArchiveInABox newsletter which has just been made available and visit to learn more about this new program which is creating the first online newspaper archive repository dedicated to America’s small town and community newspapers.

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Ready to digitize your newspaper archive?

CrowleyOne of our most read blogs clears up misconceptions about digitizing loose printed and bound volume newspaper archives.  There is a lot of information you need to know before you move forward with scanning old newspapers. Want more information?

  • If you are a librarian or historical society and own a newspaper archive collection, contact ArchiveInABox to learn how you can get started.
  • If you are a small town or community newspaper publisher, visit to learn about a new program which helps you generate revenue you need to move forward with digitizing your printed or bound volume archive then making it online accessible.

(Original post – December 2014)

It’s amazing what you might hear from a scanning provider who wants to earn your business — here are the top “fascinating falsehoods” regularly pitched to publishers:

  1. Bound book archives must be cut apart to scan and digitize.  FALSE
    No, your books do not have to be cut.  We scan all material intact including delicate materials like aging newspapers, whether loose or in bound volumes.
  2. Printed archives have to be microfilmed before digitizing.  FALSE
    Scanning can be done directly from printed material such as bound volumes, and will yield a superior image quality over that of microfilm. This means photos and illustrations will be clear and sharp. Scanning from microfilm should be done only if you don’t have the original newspapers.
  3. If you scan from the original printed page, there will be bleedthrough from the other side.  FALSE
    Our scans do not pick up bleedthrough – the pages are clean and easy to read.
  4. You should always scan to PDF file format.  FALSE
    PDF file format is great for searching and accessing individual editions, but limits what can be done in the online environment. Always insist that your digital copies are produced in the high resolution TIFF file format — from here you can save to any format, including PDF. ArchiveInABox uses non-proprietary, open source file formats in its hosting program which are far superior to PDF for online searching.
  5. You have to pay a hosting fee to put the digital archive online.  FALSE
    ArchiveInABox provides online hosting for those wanting it — without an additional charge.
  6. You have to license software and pay every year.  FALSE
    With ArchiveInABox, there are no software licensing fees. Our program is all inclusive for a one-time price.
  7. You have to ship your entire archive to our scan center.  FALSE
    When you select ArchiveInABox to produce your digital copies, you receive the benefit of our proven and repeatable production and logistics process, including the use of our heavy duty shipping containers.  You ship small amounts of your archive at any given time.

Know what you’re getting before you sign an agreement to scan your archives.  You want a partner who will be there with you throughout the process and will make it easy for your customers to access and search the archives online today and for years to come.

SmallTownPapers’ ArchiveInABox solution specializes in scanning full size loose and bound printed newspaper archives. We work with hundreds of newspaper publishers and historical stakeholders, such as libraries and historical societies, nationwide.

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Small town newspapers are a treasure trove!

An article posted on recently is such a wonderful example of the importance of small town newspaper archives to individuals wanting to learn more about their family history.

The author Janice Dickerson writes, “When I discovered the newspaper has been digitized – all the way back to 1868 – I was ecstatic! My mother’s family didn’t arrive there until 1918, so the earliest editions aren’t relevant to me, but the rest, Oh my. What a treasure trove for a family historian.”

We’re proud to have worked with hundreds of small market and community newspapers across the country to help them digitize their historic bound volume archives.  Our ArchiveInABox product is helping newspapers, historical societies, libraries and more digitize their collections and our newest program, Discover America’s Story, is helping small town and community newspaper publishers generate the revenue they need to support the digitization of their printed and bound volume archives.

If you can’t find your hometown newspaper’s archive online, encourage the publisher to contact us to learn how they can easily move their archive online for the world to explore and enjoy.

>>Click here to read the Dickerson article.

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Genealogy and the Small Town Newspaper

IMG_9216Genealogists are used to digging and searching.  Fortunately, technology has made it easier than ever before – you can research so much from the comfort of your own home. There are, however, still many occasions where genealogists run into virtual dead ends.  Information or newspaper archives that are simply unavailable online.

This is the case for millions of pages of newspaper archives from small town America. The newspapers have traditionally lacked resources to digitize their loose printed and bound volume archives.  Many of them, never had the money to even move the archives to microfilm.

This means that the genealogist is often forced to travel to their ancestors town to begin manually searching through old newspaper pages – often held in delicate and increasingly fragile bound volume books.

If you run across a newspaper without digital access to its archive, encourage the publisher to digitize the pages.  Not only will it make them accessible and searchable, but the archive will not be at risk of being lost to a building fire, flood or other natural disaster.  We have a program called Discover America’s Story which is helping publishers generate money to move forward with scanning the printed issues.  Publishers can visit for details.

Newspapers which shut down often have given their archive to the local library or historical society.  Those organizations are eligible for historical preservation grants which can help them digitize and make the newspaper archive online accessible.  ArchiveInABox works with those organizations to digitize and place the searchable digital archives online. More information can be found at

What’s important is that the aging archives are digitally preserved and made accessible for generations to come.


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A new revenue source for publishers.

revenueWith the upcoming launch of Discover America’s Story by SmallTownPapers, Inc., comes a fresh new way to generate revenue for your community or small town newspaper.  The program was designed to bring in new revenue which can be used to support the preservation and digitization of the newspaper’s printed archive.  It’s built on the tried and true method of selling ads against content but it has a fresh and important spin – historical preservation and an invaluable service for your community. Perhaps best of all – the newspaper sets its own ad rates and keeps all revenue generated!

Scroll down to our previous post to learn about this new program for newspaper publishers and stay tuned for more details on the July launch.  If you’re a publisher and you’d like to be among the first to sign on, contact us at 360.427.6300.

Be sure to socialize with Discover America’s Story.  Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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SmallTownPapers Introduces Discover America’s Story

Discover-America-Vertical-gold-blackOklahoma’s The Mooreland Leader newspaper has become the first to sign onto Discover America’s Story – a new nationwide program launched by SmallTownPapers to preserve history from small town America. The program makes it possible for the Leader to digitize its newspaper archive dating back to 1903 and make it online accessible for everyone to enjoy.

“The archive wasn’t in a format that my community could easily and conveniently search and explore,” explained Tim Schnoebelen, publisher of the Mooreland Leader. “I didn’t have the resources to take the next step to convert the files to a digital format but when I heard about Discover America’s Story, I knew that was exactly the opportunity we had been waiting for.”

Discover America’s Story provides small town and community newspaper publishers with a ready-to-go ad program which makes it easy for them to secure local sponsorships to support archive digitization. Sponsorships provide the resources needed to digitize and the Discover America’s Story offers affordable scanning and online hosting services. Mooreland has already secured several early program sponsors and has begun converting its oldest archive issues.

As they are processed, the digital issues are being uploaded to the Leader’s dedicated archive webpage ( where anyone can access and search the issues for free. Accessibility is one driver but equally important to publishers today is the digital preservation of the archive so their content is not at risk of being lost should something happen to the bound volume or loose printed copies.

“Discover America’s Story is giving everyone with a connection to Mooreland a gift they can enjoy and share today and for generations to come. We’re proud to be a part of this landmark newspaper archive program which recognizes the unique history and perspective that exists in America’s small towns like ours,” added Schnoebelen.

Launched in June 2015, Discover America’s Story is available for the thousands of American small town and community newspaper publishers. The result is a completely new online historical resource, a national repository of scanned newspaper archives exclusively from the heart and soul of America. Learn more at

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Overcoming the Challenges of Archive Digitization

There are numerous challenges that come with wanting to digitize decades of newspaper archives.  Some were detailed in an article on this week, written by Sean Phipps, about efforts underway to digitize newspapers from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

ChattanoogaTimesLogoA statewide effort is underway to scan old microfilm from newspapers with 88 historical papers currently available online but past issues of the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga News are available today only in microfilm.  One local individual wants to help but others involved including the library want to proceed in a different way.  While everyone recognizes the increasing interest in accessing the archives online, there are issues such as funding, grant applications and vendor selection which are slowing down the process.  The author points out, “The silver lining is that a conversation has been started about preserving Chattanooga’s historical papers, and the public could soon benefit from the results.”

SmallTownPapers helps newspapers, libraries and historical societies get through the red tape.  It provides high quality and affordable digitization solutions mainly scanning from the original printed page – often using the bound volume archives from newspapers.  Scanning from the original page generally provides a clear digital image.  The original issues are shipped and handled with care by experts in the field.  The issues and books are never cut or taken apart for scanning and they are safely returned as the process is completed.  The resulting searchable digital images of the newspapers are then hosted online.  Click here to learn more about the process.

The program has been used by hundreds of newspapers and organizations across the country including small town newspapers in Tennessee.  Perhaps the folks in Chattanooga might want to check in with Waverly, Tennessee’s The News-Democrat which successfully has scanned and made online accessible some of its archive going back to 1955.

Contact SmallTownPapers, Inc. to learn how your project can get started today.

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Easily Digitize Printed or Bound Volume Newspaper Archives Today

Communities across the country are ramping up their newspaper archive digitization projects as they see increased interest in the history contained within the pages.  Writers, researchers, genealogists and educators are among those crying out for convenient online access to the rich history of America’s small towns and the way its people and events were covered by the local newspaper.

SmallTownPapers was founded after its president saw firsthand the inaccessibility of small market newspaper archives.  He was stunned that so many newspaper publishers never had the resources to microfilm or digitize the newspapers leaving them with an archive of a single printed issue of each paper often placed in bound volumes stored at the newspaper office.

Having only a printed archive means that the newspaper staff has a hard time retrieving information from old issues and the front office, which routinely receives requests for information (especially with the tremendous growth in genealogy research), will have to spend time retrieving past issues or the correct bound volume for the customer.  These archives are difficult to search, are increasingly fragile, and are vulnerable to events like a building fire, flood, or in the case of an Oklahoma newspaper recently, a roof collapse.  The history in the pages is literally at risk every day.

BrewsterHerald1909SmallTownPapers began with the Quad City Herald (formerly Brewster Herald) in Washington state.  Our company founder was working there when he caught a glimpse of the newspaper’s bound volume archives dating back to the early 1900s.  It was this rural newspaper that inspired him to create an affordable yet quality way to preserve historic archives. It would have to include safe shipping since often there was only a single copy of the newspaper remaining, the pages would have to be scanned intact and appear just as the paper was printed, and it would need to provide an option for easy online hosting. Publishers Ike and Doris Vallance loved the idea of making the history-rich archives accessible for their community and became the first to sign on to the idea in 1999.  The company designed specifically to help small town publishers was born.

Since that time, hundreds of newspapers and millions of archive pages have been scanned and placed online by SmallTownPapers and the program continues to grow.  In addition to working with publishers, we’re now proud to also work with historical societies, universities, libraries, alumni organizations and others who have print archives.  In addition to newspapers, we have scanned yearbooks and organization newsletters, university newspapers, and in northern California, we’re scanning a community’s historic water maps.

Wondering what you’ll find in small town newspaper archives beyond coverage of town celebrations, marriages, obituaries, coverage of high school sports and city council meetings?  It was a small town in Iowa that is home to the Surf Ballroom – the venue where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper had performed before their doomed flight in 1959.  One of our newspapers covered the early days of the town which is now home to tech giant Microsoft while another gives you a look at what island life was like on Martha’s Vineyard in 1846.  These archive pages truly document the story of America like no other.

Contact SmallTownPapers to learn more.  Email or call our Washington state office at 360.427.6300 and find out how to get started with your archive digitization project.

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