Digital Archive Strategy: Inspirations For 2016


Digital publishing makes it easier for today’s audience to access legacy publications. Though the doors to most of the world’s oldest publishing houses may be shut, access to some of their titles are still very much open to readers across the whole world through digital archives. Noteworthy issues that were previously only available to the older generations are now there for anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone to discover, read and engage with.

If you’ve been clueless about unlocking the value of your vintage titles and how to make money out of them, take it from the following iconic magazines. Their archives can generate sales that can pay way more than the cost they invested in digitising.

Do you have content that can possibly be resurfaced? Why not strategically extend their life and distribute it to those who may have missed them the first time they were published?

The following extract was originally posted by Michael Rondon on Folio.

scientific_americanScientific American (founded 1845)

As the oldest continuously published magazine in the country, Scientific American‘s content database has original reporting on inventions like Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Thomas Edison’s lightbulb. And there’s more than 150,000 other articles going back 169 years (though pre-2005 content is PDF only).

Institutional access has been available since 2011 through a partnership with sister site,, but Scientific American opened its library to consumers earlier this year. Unlimited archive access is bundled into a $99 annual subscription that also includes monthly print and digital issues of the magazine. It’s clear they’re putting a lot of value on those vast archives though—an “all-access” pass is $75 more than a print subscription alone.

“We’re asking $99 for this product, which is considerably more than our other subscription packages,” Chris Dorbandt, the brand’s VP of consumer marketing, told FOLIO: when the product launched. “We’re rewarding our brand loyalists with exceptional value because we believe this is a lifetime product with concern to our content.”

the_atlanticThe Atlantic (1857)

The Atlantic has a number of different levels and entry points for its legacy content. Almost every magazine article from Sept. 1995 through today is online in HTML format, for free, along with a smattering of pieces (usually from its better-known contributors or that touch on major historical events) from earlier issues.

Pre-1995 access gets more complicated. A ProQuest site offers stories from 1857 through the present, though it warns articles from Jan. 1964 through Sept. 1992 aren’t available due to copyright restrictions. Prices range from $2.95 (a single article) to $99.95 (a yearly pass that’ll give you access to 300 articles).

harpersHarper’s (1850)

Harper’s has one of the deepest archives out there with close to 2,000 monthly issues in its library. The vast majority of those are only available via PDF (or microfiche), with issues from 2012-on offering an HTML view.

The brand only offers one subscription bundle ($39.99/1 year; $49.99/2 years), so every paying reader gets full archive access along with current print and digital products.


the_nationThe Nation (1865)

Online for more than a decade, The Nation‘s archives have been around digitally longer than most. And, similar to the Harper’s model, annual subscriptions bundle current content with access to its archives for $32 (print and digital) or $18 (digital-only).

It stands out for how it’s making use of that content in the present day though. The magazine launched “Back Issues” in May—a blog that mixes original reporting of major historical events with retrospective looks at how those stories developed in real time. Hindsight serves up some interesting nuggets.

“We today launch the ‘Back Issues’ blog at, which will highlight articles from our past either relevant to topics and events of the day or irrelevant, but nonetheless interesting,” the blog’s editor, Richard Kreitner, said at the time of its launch in May. “From the Johnson impeachment to the Clinton impeachment, from the Paris Commune to Occupy Wall Street, from the old Jim Crow to the new, The Nation has been there, America’s oldest weekly magazine. The possibilities for exploration are practically endless.”

vogueVogue (1892)

Vogue puts more of a premium on its archives than any other magazine. After a massive (and secretive) scanning project, the brand made its 122-years of content—425,000 images, 300,000 ads and 100,000 articles—available to consumers in 2011. The price tag? $1575. That’s for full access, though regular magazine subscribers ($19.99/1 year) get a limited selection of archival content. Condé Nast has been creatively monetizing its archives with other brands and projects aside from Vogue however. Condé Nast Collection and Condé Nast Trade offer reprints and custom photo installations to consumer and B2B buyers, respectively.

Read Michael‘s full article on Folio, here.

The Realview Archive solution allows you to convert your collections into useful online digital archives that can be read on any device at anytime. Not only do we help you develop digital archive strategies, but we also ensure you retain the look and feel of your original assets, as well as comply with the original copyright.