Dan Gillmor argues for the newspapers to unlock their archives from behind the pay wall and provide them to the reading (and blogging) public as a community resource, collective history, and public record. With advances in contextual advertising such as Google’s Adsense (now available as an API by the way), there must be a way for newspapers to make more money off their archives than they currently do from the occasional $2.95 they get from individual readers and the collective royalties they get from the commercial databases such as Lexis-Nexis and Factiva.

If I was a publisher with a pay-per-view archive, here’s what I’d do:

1) Re-publish every article in the archives with a unique URL,
outside the pay-wall. It would be helpful if the articles published
since the newspaper went online could have the same URLs, but don’t
worry if that’s too expensive; if the stories are important enough,
they’ll be found and pointed to. It’ll just take a little longer.

2) Leave every new article on the Web at the URL it had upon publication. That’s easier.

3) Encourage the readers to use the archives, with house
advertisements, website notices e-mail to local librarians and other
ways to get out the word.

4) Let local bloggers know that you welcome their links, and that you’ve made the change in part because they need it, too.

5) If a local blogger points to your article, use Trackback or other such technology to point back.

I think most of the pay-per-view media sites are all looking at each other to see who will make the first move. Large sites such as the New York Times have the most to gain from such a move because of the attraction of their brand will generate the most traffic. But if a mid-tier player makes the first move (especially someone in a wired part of the world such as the San Jose Mercury News), they could gain first mover advantage and keep momentum up from the subsequent blogger pile-on effect that would use this source as their default research and linking resource.

If no one jumps, the pending citizen journalism efforts will take their place so someone will make the move sooner or later.