Google Inc. is trying to expand the newspaper section of its online library to include billions of articles published during the past 244 years, hoping the added attraction will lure even more traffic to its leading Internet search engine.
The project announced Monday extends Google's crusade to make digital copies of content created before the Internet's advent, so the information can become more accessible and, ultimately, Google can make more money from ads shown on its Web site.
As part of the latest initiative, Google will foot the bill to copy the archives of any newspaper publisher willing to permit the stories to be shown for free on Google's Web site. The participating publishers will receive an unspecified portion of the revenue generated from the ads displayed next to the stories.
Google is touting the program as a way to give people an easier way to find a rich vein of history. The initiative also is designed to provide a financial boost to newspaper publishers as they try to offset declining revenue from print editions that are losing readers and advertisers to online news sources.
"I believe this could be a turning point for the industry," said Pierre Little, publisher of the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, which touts itself as North America's oldest newspaper, with editions dating to 1764. "This helps us unlock a bit of an asset that had just been sitting within the organization."
Besides the Chronicle-Telegraph, other newspapers that have already agreed to allow Google to copy and host their archives include the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. Google declined to specify how many other papers have signed up or how much the company has budgeted for the project.
Google already has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to make electronic copies of books and other material kept in dozens of libraries around the world. The book-copying program, launched in 2004, has triggered a lawsuit from group of authors and publishers that alleges it infringes on copyrights — a charge that Google is fighting.
Major newspapers including The New York Times and The Washington Post began to give Google's search engine access to some of their electronic archives in 2006. But those results frequently displayed only news snippets. Readers often had to pay a fee to see the entire article.
Besides being free, the newspaper archives hosted by Google will be presented in the same way they originally appeared in print, said Adam Smith, Google's product management director.
Finding the old newspaper stories initially will require searching through Google's "news" or "news archive" section. The newspaper archives should start showing up on Google's main results page within the next year, Smith said.