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Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

The New York Times is digitizing millions of historical photos dating back to 1896.

Why it matters: While there isn't an immediate business case for the move, The Times hopes that by digitizing its photo library, it can eventually move some of that material into its licensed library of syndicated material. It also believes that new editorial features that develop from the archived photos could bolster digital subscriptions.

How it works: There is a team dedicated to archiving the material and photo data online, as well as an archival storytelling team that is assigned to creating new stories and content using the digitized material.

  • The company is working with Google to upload archives onto Google's Cloud, where the images will stored. They will work with Google to sort metadata from photos on the Cloud as well.
  • Currently, the photo archives have been sitting three floors below The Times headquarters in New York City in a library that's internally dubbed "the morgue."

What to expect: "We're at the early stage digitizing things at this point so this is going to take a while," says Monica Drake, assistant managing editor at The New York Times.

  • "Every week we will be rolling out at least two stories inspired by what we find, trends we uncover and if there’s any news event that makes stories we covered 50 years ago newly relevant, we'll be following up on those as well," Drake said.

Between the lines: Drake says the editorial goal is not to do this just for special occasions, but to make it a permanent fixture of coverage that helps readers reconsider history. "With the benefit of hindsight, you revisit stories you thought had ended long ago."

  • The Times kept gathering physical photos well into the 1990s, before digital cameras were fully integrated into modern society.

The big picture: Brands with decades of intellectual property have been using similar cloud technologies to digitize and modernize their content to make it applicable for new business cases and audiences.

  • The New York Times Cooking subscription, which has millions of paid subscribers, was built using thousands of digitized recipes from The Times' archives.
  • Companies that have decades of content, like DotDash and National Geographic, have done similar things.

The bottom line: For now, this project is not being managed by The Times' team that explores new products and ventures, but it's not out of the realm of possibility to think that a new, monetizable editorial feature could come from what's being uncovered.

Go deeper

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

7 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.