Expert Insight Series: Revenue generation - which model is right for your archive?

In the third of our Expert Insight Series of guest blog posts, digital marketing expert Ryan Kyle examines models for generating revenue from digital archives online. Read on below for his insight on selecting the right revenue model for your archive.

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TWA Expert Insight Series Ryan Kyle - Marketing consultant


Revenue generation – which model is right for your digital archive? By Ryan Kyle

Whether you work for a library, a museum, a parish council, or any other organisation that holds an archive; there are several reasons that generating revenue from your digital collections online is a good idea. Just a couple of potential benefits include:

  • Offsetting the cost of the initial digitisation project (or further digitisation)
  • Contributing to the cost of maintaining your physical archives
  • Building credibility with business stakeholders
  • Helping justify and safeguard future archive budget

Is it for my digital archive?

But my archive isn’t exciting/important/broad enough for people to pay to access online” I hear you say? In many cases this simply isn’t true…

With the continuing rise of genealogy and social history as a hobby, in addition to more traditional academic research, there is a constantly growing market for archives and records online.
Most researchers are more than happy to pay a fee to access an archive online, rather than have to pay the (potentially hefty) travel costs of visiting the archive’s physical location. As long as your collection is unique and of value, it will be suitable for generating revenue.

You might also be thinking that you don’t have the time or human resources to commit to publishing your collection online. But with modern web-hosted digital asset management systems and web content management software, like TownsWeb’s combined PastView platform, it’s easy and hassle-free to maintain your digital archive.

So which model of revenue generation is right for your collection?

Pay per Item model

For collections where people are likely to want a permanent copy of a record, such as will records or photographic archives, a pay per item model often works best.

In a pay per item model the online archive is free to access and search, with website visitors able to view watermarked images. Visitors are then only charged when they choose to purchase a particular item, this could be a jpeg or PDF image download or an order for a physical photographic print of a particular image/document.

A great example of this model in action is East Dunbartonshire Leisure & Culture Trust’s Local Studies image library.

Paid Subscription

For more in depth collections, such as archives of publications like newspapers or magazines, paid subscription access might be more appropriate. In this scenario users are only able to gain access to the digital collection via a payment gateway on the website: paying a fee for access to the archive for a set period of time.

TownsWeb Archiving have helped Sandhurst Military Academy use this model to great effect as part of a recent magazine and journal digitisation project.

Mixed Approach

Of course the content of your archive is unlikely to fall neatly into one category, so for more diverse collections a mix of the two approaches above is the best option for maximising revenues.

Regardless of which revenue generation model you choose, after publishing your collections online, driving relevant traffic to your website and visitor engagement with your collections is key to success.

Offering free access for a trial period, distributing promotional press releases to relevant media, and sharing links on relevant social media pages, are just a few tactics you can use to begin raising awareness of your digital archive. But it’s important to remember that, as with any business venture, sustained sales may take some time to develop.

Find this post interesting?

Click to find out more about Ryan’s marketing consultancy service or contact TownsWeb Archiving.


Paul Sugden - Digitisation strategy consultantNext week… Paul Sugden

In the last of our Expert Insight Series, digitisation strategy expert Paul Sugden explores collaborative working with external suppliers as another avenue to generate revenue from digital archives online.


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