The Chicago Tribune is seeking to create an additional revenue stream by making its collection of archived photos available for licensing. The paper’s news administration editor, Randall Weissman, explains the hurdles the publication must first tackle in order for this to happen:
The overall goal is to figure out how the company can monetize its resources that are currently archival in nature – photos, old newspapers. We need to get them digitized and figure out how to market them.
Another issue at hand is determining the value of these images. “Value” seems to be a word we keep going back to, over and over, in terms of monetizing content through, say, erecting pay walls. What is the value of news or of an image, particularly if knowledgeable readers and consumers can find these for free elsewhere? Says Weissman:
There are a certain number of photos that are important to the newspaper – like the building of the Sears [now Willis] Tower or architectural photos. Then there are those that would be popular for readers – like John Dillinger lying on the slab. I would’ve given anything to have this project done before [the movie Public Enemies] came out.
Death and sex, baby. That’s what sells. Also big, erect buildings, we guess.
Once the photos are digitized and made into hard copies, they will be distributed through companies like The Mint, CMG, and ImageSpan, which has a platform, called LicenseStream, that will allow the Chicago Tribune to make its archived photos searchable and marketable.
The New York Times recently launched a similar initiative, licensing their web content to interested consumers and companies.