Modern Software Experience

2011-09-03

free online publishing

Ancestry Content Publisher Programme

Ancestry Content Publisher Programme introduced the Ancestry Content Publisher Programme, which aims to get interesting digital collections owned by genealogical and historical societies online, onto the Ancestry.com site to be precise.
Question is, should your society go for the Ancestry Content Publisher Programme? This article highlights some key considerations, including some a few issues Ancestry fails to mention, and suggests an alternative Ancestry.com programme to consider.

Have you looked at bandwidth cost lately? Think cents per gigabyte and falling.

free hosting

Ancestry.com is stressing that they offer free hosting, they even write FREE in ALL CAPS. Now, free hosting is nice, but hardly as valuable an offer as it used to be a decade ago. Have you looked at bandwidth cost lately? Think cents per gigabyte and falling. Any modern genealogy society should have a web presence already, and a bit more bandwidth consumption is not going to bust the budget.

index

Once the images have been uploaded, they can be indexed using the provided indexing tools. That's nice too, but I could not help but notice that Ancestry stresses that your collection remains yours, but remains silent on the issue of index ownership; it is not clear who owns the index or even that you will be able to download it in any format. How good an idea is it to create the index on Ancestry.com when the index becomes their property? Will you be able to take your index elsewhere, or will Ancestry effectively lock you into hosting your collection with them forever?
The least that needs to happen here is clear, open and honest communication from Ancestry.com on this issue, so that you can compare with other indexing options and make an informed decision.

branding

Ancestry.com stresses that your collections will appear on Ancestry.com with your own branding. Well, of course. Your brand belongs with your collection. You are not likely to give your collection to a third party that won't show your brand.
The real question is how allowing Ancestry.com to use your society's brand and collection will affect your brand. Do you desire to be associated with Ancestry.com or would you rather not be associated with them? That are questions each society must answer for itself.

The Ancestry search engine may be popular with genealogists, but Google.com is more popular, way more popular.

exposure

Ancestry.com claims that publishing your collection on Ancestry.com will increase your society's exposure, and generate traffic from both its 1½ million members and the general public.
Publishing your collection anywhere is sure to get you more exposure and traffic than not publishing it - and Ancestry makes it easy to host with them by offering the indexing tools you need to do so. There is no doubt that Ancestry.com is a prime web destination for many genealogists, and getting even a small share of their traffic to your collections would be nice.

Do not get too excited by Ancestry.com's numbers. Ancestry.com is not going to direct all the users visiting their site to your collection, they are only going to make it available on their site and findable through the Ancestry search engine.
The Ancestry search engine may be popular with genealogists, but Google.com is more popular, way more popular. If it is traffic you want, the Ancestry.com search engine hardly matters; web traffic is dominated by Google and Bing. Besides, you do not have to give them your collection to take advantage of their search engine traffic. There is another way.

competitive advantage

Your society owns unique content that no one else can offer. Ancestry.com would love to offer that content to their users, and they would especially like their site to be only one offering your content. Having unique content is a competitive advantage, a sure way to attract visitors.
That's why you should get your content onto the web, and why should think twice before giving your content away. Why would anyone still bother to visit your society's site when all your unique content is on Ancestry.com?

The Ancestry Content Publisher programme lacks a crucial component: licensing fees.

licensing fees

The Ancestry Content Publisher programme lacks a crucial component: licensing fees. Ancestry.com wants your collections because your collections are valuable. Ancestry.com is framing their Ancestry Content Publisher programme as free online hosting, and that is indeed what it is about. Ancestry.com tries to make that sound like a benefit to you, but they are getting the bigger benefit; Ancestry gets to host your content for free - without paying you the customary compensation for it.

It may be a good idea to work with Ancestry to get your data published and found by genealogists, but that does not imply you should give it to them for free. Working together to get your collection indexed and giving your data away are two separate decisions. It is perfectly reasonable to demand licensing fees for your content.

alternative

Every society is different, and different societies make different decisions, but you should definitely think very carefully before giving decades of content curation away to a commercial third party.

Perhaps the most valuable proposition of the Ancestry Content Publisher programme is having your collection included in the Ancestry search index. Sure, Google is more important, but the Ancestry search users are all interested in genealogy, and some are more comfortable using Ancestry search than using Google search.
There is a way to take advantage of the Ancestry search engine traffic without giving your collections away; Ancestry Web Search. You put your data on the web, wherever and however you like, and then work with them to have it indexed and appear in their search engine.
That way, you get to keep your unique content, and Ancestry gets to expand their selection of indexed collections.

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