San Diego Genealogical Society collections
published on Ancestry.com Content Publisher.
Click to enlarge.
To learn about it, I snuck into a private briefing given during the 2011 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). O.K. that may not be entirely true either. I didn’t sneak in, I was invited. It wasn’t a private briefing, it was a focus group. And I didn’t first learn about it at FGS; Ancestry.com briefed a number of us at the NGS conference.
So with subsequent adieu, I present Ancestry.com Content Publisher.
There is a lot of great content out there that is just too small to warrant the attention of the Ancestry.coms and FamilySearches of the world. Content Publisher allows genealogical societies or other small record custodians to self publish such collections.
Laurel Penney, Steve Yesel, and Mark Weaver conducted the focus group. About a dozen society representatives attended. Ancestry.com presented the concept, demonstrated it, fielded questions, and distributed questionnaires. The program is a couple of months into a six month pilot.
Ancestry.com provides free hosting for images. Societies upload their images to the site. Ancestry.com provides indexing tools for society use. Once the society completes indexing, Ancestry.com takes the indexes and images and hosts the collection for the society. The society gets a free, branded web page (see San Diego Genealogical Society’s for an example), with the images and indexes stored safely and securely using the same systems used by Ancestry.com to protect their own content. Societies can then make the collection available to whomever they choose via a special URL (see a Lockport History Society example). Collection search utilizes Ancestry.com’s search technology. After the pilot is over, the collection appears in the Ancestry.com catalog and search results. Record and image views identify the society as the collection source, possibly increasing interest in the society.
“We’re hoping this is a win-win for both sides,” said product manager, Steve Yesel.
Ancestry.com has added a feature between the NGS and FGS conferences. Societies often have existing databases or spreadsheets of textual data that they wish to post. The collection page appears as shown below, left. The content appears as shown below, right.
Conference dementia is setting in, so I may not have all the details correct. In a sense, that doesn’t matter. In response to what is learned in the focus groups, the resulting program may differ in some respects.
The Ancestry.com model seems to be built on the premise that societies want to offer their holdings for free, but need indexing tools and free hosting. While Ancestry.com was amenable to the idea of societies monetizing the collections, they didn’t yet have a clear way to make that happen.
But with societies already fighting dropping membership numbers, in no small part because subscription websites are outcompeting societies for the meager dollars genealogists spend on memberships and subscriptions, it will be a bitter pill for society officers to throw their indexing workforce towards fueling Ancestry.com’s ability to steal their members.
Neither FamilySearch nor Ancestry.com can provide societies a win-win solution for those that wish to monetize themselves out of financial brinksmanship. FamilySearch doesn’t seem able to deal commercially. Ancestry.com doesn’t seem willing.
In truth, even if Ancestry.com were able to offer societies per-click royalties, or empower societies to charge for image views, all a societies records are dust compared to Ancestry.com’s 8 billion records. Imagine that an Ancestry.com subscriber visited equally all 8 billion records. Divide their subscription price up 8 billion ways, pay a society their share, and what the society gets rounds to zero. The reality is worse; most clicks will go to big, popular collections.
There’s a certain irony that Ancestry.com’s Content Publisher program can only be successful if societies follow the counsel of FamilySearch’s David Rencher: Concentrate on your core society purposes while sharing a passion and having fun. Push costs and membership fees toward zero.
Only then does Content Publisher become a win-win scenario.
To see Content Publisher for yourselves, visit http://publish.ancestry.com.
And now as promised, adieu.