NewsBank (http://www.newsbank.com) has purchased several lines of business from MediaStream, a Knight Ridder (KR) company, including NewsLibrary, a searchable Web-based archive of over 75 newspapers; SAVE, an integrated text and image archiving system; and the MediaStream data-capture business. The complicated transaction comprises several agreements among Knight Ridder; KnightRidder.com (the Internet subsidiary of KR); NewsBank; and NewsBank Media Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of NewsBank, for the assets purchase, archive hosting, and archive distribution. One agreement involves a multiyear deal with KnightRidder.com for NewsBank to host KR content (about 30 KR newspapers) on NewsLibrary and to distribute KR content into the library and education market.
The sale of assets to NewsBank closed in early January, but the companies held off making any formal announcement. Both MediaStream and NewsBank spent several weeks contacting their customers to inform them of the news first. Sources indicated that the companies will probably make a public announcement in February at the time of the Interactive Newspapers Conference.
According to Chuck Palsho, president of NewsBank Media Services, Inc., the company is working closely with MediaStream to integrate the NewsLibrary and SAVE businesses with NewsBank over a period of several months. He told members of the Special Libraries Association news librarians NewsLib list: "Our top priority is to move the operations without any interruption of service. The only difference our customers should see is improvements as we merge our products and services. In fact, we are planning to enhance several areas of NewsLibrary during the transition period, such as an upgraded search engine, more e-commerce pricing packages, and enhanced customer service."
The NewsLibrary service from MediaStream provides the archives of over 75 newspapers (some of them KR-owned papers), plus some news wires. NewsLibrary lets the general public search for articles using any word that appears in the article. The full text of most articles can be purchased for $1.95, and the participating newspapers and MediaStream share the revenue. Many of the participating newspapers also make their archives available from their own Web sites.
The NewsBank service distributes a variety of archival content to the library and education market. Palsho also said that NewsBank launched a service for newspapers last year that is similar to NewsLibrary. NewsBank has been operating the sites for four publications—The San Antonio Express News, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, The Raleigh News & Observer, and Newsweek—using each publication's branding and look and feel. He stressed the clear synergies of combining the NewsBank and NewsLibrary services in working with newspapers. And, he said it was advantageous for everyone involved to manage a single archive for distribution to multiple markets. According to Palsho, the purchase doesn't affect the agreements for the Knight Ridder newspapers that are available through DIALOG.
Both the SAVE and NewsLibrary businesses will be operated out of NewsBank's Chester, Vermont, headquarters. There were 38 MediaStream employees at the time of the sale, several of whom have now left the company. It's not known at this time how many will choose to leave the Philadelphia office, but many of them will continue to work through the transition period.
Joe DiMarino, president of MediaStream, who has been with Knight Ridder for 30 years, will stay through the transition and has not decided what he will do after that. DiMarino was a news librarian at The Philadelphia Inquirer and was the first employee of VU/TEXT, the predecessor to NewsLibrary. He said that there was some sadness at the MediaStream office, but that he felt the decision was a matter of priorities and focus for Knight Ridder. DiMarino also believes that NewsBank knows the newspaper business and will make good partners for the MediaStream customers. He said: "MediaStream has long been recognized for its competence in providing technology-based solutions to assist newsrooms in meeting their business objectives. This, coupled with a reputation as best of class in electronic archiving, ensures that newspapers get a Web solution they can rely on."
Comments on the NewsLib list were uniformly positive in praising the MediaStream service and customer support. Jim Hunter, library director at The Columbus Dispatch, said MediaStream had set a "gold standard" in the industry, and that "NewsBank has acquired a valuable store of goodwill and credibility."
One commented that it will be a tough act for NewsBank to follow. Several suggested that MediaStream's strength came from the company's roots in having been started by former news librarians.
While NewsBank did not technically purchase the MediaStream company, just specific assets, MediaStream will soon cease to exist. Another component to the company, PressLink (which provided access to photos and graphics for publication) became part of a joint venture between Knight Ridder and the Tribune Co., which had purchased a similar product, Newscom, from Times Mirror. The new entity combining PressLink and Newscom is 50-percent owned each by KR and the Tribune, and expects to have the transition out of MediaStream completed by the end of the first quarter of this year.