Do You Have The Right Digital Archives Business Model?


solution-archive-fine-cookingThere are several different ways you can approach creating a digital archive for your publication in terms of an initial investment and both your short and long term revenue plans. Different digital providers offer a variety of options, from an initial investment with zero revenue share for the life of the archive to a free archive development with a lifetime revenue share on the back end.

Here are three of the most popular business models for digital archives and ways in which to think about how to approach your own.


There are companies that offer to put your archive online free of charge, depending on your content and the value and number of potential subscribers. Of course, it is not really free as there are bound to be some restrictions around the service. A few years ago Google offered magazine and book scanning in exchange for making the material freely available online, and any text inside the article was only allowed to be indexed by Google. In other words, no one would be able to search for the content in Bing, Yahoo or any other search engine.

For some publications this was good enough in terms of what they were looking for to index their archive, and the restrictions were not an issue for them. However, if you have a list of vendors who are willing to offer you this kind of program, be sure to read the fine print as although this may be an attractive offering on face value, there will be a trade off for you at some point in the process.


If your publication offers educational value for such topics as history, science, fashion, art or literary value for schools, libraries and universities then there are companies who will not only get your archive online for free, but offer a revenue stream in the form of institutional subscriptions as well. There is usually a revenue share for this model, which can be restricted to a set amount or open through the lifetime of the archive. In addition, there may be limits places on what access your company will have to the archive once it has been developed. Publishers are usually also prohibited from selling access to educational institutions independently.

It is also worth noting that these educational services are designed to produce the digital content for research purposes and therefore tend to not focus on the aesthetics or experience of the reader.


Investing in having your archive digitzed online is the most flexible in terms of the amount of control you maintain before, during and after its development. This model usually requires an upfront, one-time payment that covers data ingestion, custom built integrations and features including search features, subscription and pricing access and branding. This allows you to co-create an archive that has the look, experience and functionality you want your readers to have, while giving you the freedom to monetize it in the ways that make the most sense for your company and advertisers, if you have them. Once your archive has been developed, you then either pay a monthly hosting fee to your digital provider or agree to a revenue share model moving forward.

This model performs best for companies that have a loyal reader following and know their readers will reap benefits from subscribing or receiving access to the archive for a long time to come.

Of the three archive business models, it’s important to look at which one will best suit your needs in terms of your business, your short and long term goals and your ideal reader that fits into those goals. Once you have that sorted out, choosing the right provider becomes a delightfully fulfilling process.


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