Why Newspapers.com for Genealogy Research?

Subscription-based historical newspapers research

I've been playing since early Thursday with a new website launched by Ancestry.com -- Newspapers.com. The press release sounds glowing, as they usually do. That's what a press release is for, after all. But what is actually in it for me? Why should I also subscribe to Newspapers.com if I already plunk down $299 annually for Ancestry's World Explorer subscription which includes a Historical Newspapers collection, with over 16 million pages from newspapers across the U.S., U.K., and Canada? Not to mention the money I also spend on subscriptions to NewspaperArchive.com and GenealogyBank.com.

What content does Newspapers.com offer that's different?
As mentioned by many genealogy bloggers, including DearMyrtle, the newspapers initially available on Newspapers.com appear to primarily come from the same source as the newspapers already available on Ancestry.com. A quick check of newspapers available for North Carolina, for example, brings up the same general list of newspapers on both sites:

  • Statesville Record & Landmark
  • The (Lumberton) Robesonian
  • The Daily (Kannapolis) Independent
  • The High Point Enterprise
  • The Gastonia Gazette
  • The (Burlington) Daily Times-News
  • Raleigh Weekly Standard

There are some differences in available issues/years on both sites. Newspapers.com, for example, has additional issues of The High Point Enterprise (portions of 1941-1942 and 1950-1952) that don't appear on Ancestry.com. Conversely, there are issues of some of these newspapers on Ancestry.com, that don't yet appear on Newspapers.com, such as extra issues of The Gastonia Gazette (1920, 1925-1928) and the Burlington News (April 1972 and November 1973). All minor differences, but differences nonetheless.

Comparing the available newspapers for Pennsylvania also brings up many similarities. From the Pittsburgh area, for example, both subscriptions include only the North Hills News Record (none of the major Pittsburgh papers) with Newspapers.com issues from January - August of 1972 and January - April of 1975. Ancestry.com offers those same issues from 1972 and 1975, plus an additional subset of issues (with gaps), 1964-2001. Many of the other Pennsylvania newspapers, including the Tyrone Daily Herald, Tyrone Star, Warren Times Mirror, The Charleroi Mail, and the Indiana Gazette, are also comparable between the two sites, although in some cases the two sites offer slightly different titles, or different subsets of issues.

Despite the many similar newspaper titles/runs, Ancestry told me that over 15 million of the 25 million pages available on Newspapers.com at launch are not part of the newspapers currently available to U.S. and World subscribers of Ancestry.com. This appears to be especially true as you head away from the East Coast. Examples include:

  • The Emporia Gazette (Kansas) -- Newspapers.com has 191,273 pages from 1895-1977; not available on Ancestry.com. GenealogyBank (which counts content in terms of "documents," or individual articles, rather than pages) has content from 1896-1921. NewspaperArchive.com has issues from 1895-1977 (similar to Ancestry.com).
  • The Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio) -- Ancestry has 11,432 pages from 1960-1961; Newspapers.com has 211,232 pages from 1930-1976. NewspaperArchive has newspapers from 1907-1976.
  • Courier News (Blytheville, Arkansas) -- Ancestry has 57,601 pages from 1968-1977; Newspapers.com has 151,028 pages from 1930-1977. NewspaperArchive.com has content from 1928-2007.

A sampling of newspapers currently on Newspapers.com that don't seem to be on Ancestry.com also includes the Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin), Windfall Advisor (Indiana), Williamsburg Journal-Tribune (Iowa), West Frankfort Daily (Illinois), Weekly Free Press (Eau Claire, Wisconsin), Ventura County Advisor (Oxnard, California), and Ukiah Republican Press (California). The majority of these are available on either NewspaperArchive.com or GenealogyBank.com, however, although not always the exact same titles and years.

User Interface and Navigation
The pages load extremely fast (although I guess that could change as the number of users increases). It is really easy to narrow a search to a particular subset of newspapers based on combination of title, location, and date from the left-hand column.

It is also easy to clip an article or story, which can then be saved publicly, or privately to your own account. The clippings each include the name of the paper, the page and the date -- pretty much everything you need for a citation except the column number, but for that just click on the clipping to be taken directly to the full page from which it was clipped. Clippings can also be shared via email, Facebook, or Twitter, and when you share a clipping, others can see the image even if they don't subscribe to Newspapers.com. This allowed sharing of small amounts of content is more liberal than the stated terms of use at other popular commercial newspaper sites.

For further details and screenshots of Newspaper.com's slick navigation and user interface, check out Randy Seaver's blog post First Look at Newspapers.com Subscription Site.

Future Plans...
The Newspapers.com content team is, and will continue, producing new newspaper content (some exclusive) digitized and indexed from microfilm (millions of new pages per month is what I was told). Now that the site is live, they also plan to engage in discussions with several newspaper publishers and microfilm owners to increase the number of newspaper titles in their production pipeline. To stay up-to-date with the latest content additions to Newspapers.com, you can visit the New and Updated page to see what newspaper collections have been recently uploaded, or added to. The list initially appears in random order (perhaps order of addition, although this isn't clear), but you can further sort by location and/or date with the search refinements in the left-hand column.

Will the newspapers currently on Ancestry.com go away?
For those of you wondering if the newspapers currently available on Ancestry.com will go away, I've been assured that there are "no current plans" to remove newspaper content from Ancestry.com. Additionally, Ancestry.com subscribers will be eligible for a 50% discount on a Newspapers.com subscription (regularly $79.95), in part to account for the fact that there is some content overlap. This 50% discount will be available via ads running on Ancestry.com (much like they currently offer with Fold3.com subscriptions), or you can received the discount by contacting the Newspapers.com support team via phone or their website. If you just want to check it out, they have a 7-day free trial that yes, you can cancel online yourself without having to call at any time before the seven days expire. As new newspapers are digitized, most will be added only to Newspapers.com, as Ancestry's primary site for historical newspaper content. There may, however, be some non-digital newspaper content such as textual extracts, or obituaries, which makes more sense to add to Ancestry.com.

Bottom Line
Bottom line, much of the content currently available at launch on Newspapers.com can be accessed through one or more of the other online subscription-based newspaper sites, including Ancestry.com. So if you're looking for new, exclusive newspaper content, you may want to hold off. Their plan, however, is for users to see a lot of content going online very quickly over the next 2-3 months, so keep checking back. The navigation and user interface is, in my opinion, much easier to use and more social media friendly than most other newspaper sites, however, and worth the price of the subscription for me now -- although I'm definitely looking forward to more newspapers!