The struggling microfiche industry was struck another blow yesterday as online advertising profiteer Google announced that it was quadrupling the size of its Google News Search index of historical newspapers. The Mountain View, California-based company will now make historical text from newspapers such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Halifax Gazette available online.
In response to this recent development, the Associated Microfiche Association board of directors announced that it will launch an industry initiative to protect old news content "from misappropriation online." In an interview with The New York Times, Tom Shirley, The AMA’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a historical news article online was “a gross misuse of valuable historical content in a modern environment.”
The AMA announcement is a clear attempt to tackle a problem which the industry has been facing for some years: that of competition from search engines and aggregators such as Google, which index newspaper content and hence reduce the amount of time that people spend on microfiche systems.
Duane Henry, a professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, has even suggested that Google take an active role in saving microfiche systems. "It stands to reason that Google and corporations like it," Henry wrote in a recent editorial the San Francisco Chronicle, "should begin to take on greater civic responsibility for microfiche's plight."