JDNA: Journalism Digital News Archive

Like the DNA that forms the basic building blocks of life, digital news archives form a foundation for information systems upon which modern culture, government, business and science can be constructed and maintained.

A variety of economic, technological, political and social factors have produced the current digital preservation quandary. JDNA proposes an implementation of Theory of Change loosely based on the BUILD Initiative, which has been successful in addressing systems change to improve educational outcomes in at least 10 U.S. states. The JDNA initiative looks at five broad areas of implementation: Context, components, connections, infrastructure and scale. In each of these areas, the challenge is to envision desired outcomes and to map pathways towards achieving those goals.  These five components combine synergistically to create fresh possibilities for dysfunctional or underperforming systems. Guided by a systems change model, development of the JDNA initiative involves strategic implementation of relevant components as needed.


JDNA looks at digital preservation in the context of saving cultural heritage for the needs of journalists and educators with the help of government, private enterprise and individuals. Improving the political environment that surrounds the system to produce policy and funding changes is a critical step needed to create and sustain efforts to save born-digital news content.

In light of the current funding environment for archives in the U.S., it makes sense to work with people in the private sector to demonstrate the potential value of their archive and to assist them in realizing it. If news executives see archives as a profit center instead of a burden, those resources will stay viable until they enter the public domain and can ultimately be accessed and preserved by other means. News organizations are businesses and if decision-makers don’t see value in keeping their archives, they have little incentive to preserve them – or even donate them, given current laws that provide relatively few incentives for transfers to cultural heritage institutions. JDNA will address these and other issues in the future through the context component of our initiative with efforts to influence decision makers to shape policy that supports digital media preservation.


Establishing high-performance programs and services that produce results for system beneficiaries is vital to the success of the JDNA model. These support components include developing new business models, grant writing, offering preservation services and asset mapping, marketing and training opportunities.

Development of new business frameworks that leverage efficiencies in technology along with the market reach of long-tail monetization models would empower owners of digital news content and stimulate their participation in the initiative.

Amazon.com’s success can be explained in part by the use of the long-tail model of retailing. By leveraging the efficiencies of the Internet, the long tail effectively opens up markets that were previously unprofitable. Digital news archives can also benefit from these niche markets, once they are optimized for ease of access and delivery.

Amazon’s example also suggests that content can be a gateway to marketing other things. By beginning with books, Amazon has been able to gain insights into the interests of its customers. Data collected from the sale of content has allowed Amazon to successfully customize its product offerings at the individual level. In much the same way, archived news content can provide marketers with a high-value understanding of their customers.

Another of JDNA’s goals will be creation of a real-time online map of news archives showing their level of risk, research value, geographic representation, temporal coverage, completeness, diversity, copyright issues and unique qualities. Understanding more about the value of such digital collections will assist with the process of assigning scant resources to saving the highest priority news archives.


The task of preserving born-digital news archives on a sustainable basis is too large and complex for any one group to accomplish alone. Thus, establishing connections among stakeholders, policy makers and other interested parties is an essential element of building a successful program. Creating strong and effective linkages and access across system components will further improve results for system beneficiaries.

JDNA will offer new business frameworks that leverage efficiencies in technology along with the market reach of long-tail monetization models. For the success of the initiative, JDNA will invite participation from the following parties:

  • Journalists.
  • Archivists.
  • Corporations / businesses.
  • Historians.
  • Legal Counsel.
  • Educators / institutions.
  • Mass media.
  • Genealogists.
  • Entrepreneurs.
  • Students.


One of the significant areas of impact is the development of stronger infrastructure and support systems needed to function effectively and with quality. This includes creating a common language for systems building and achieving comprehension with partners through sharing mutual goals and vision. A consistent approach for JDNA in terms of building project infrastructure means focusing on areas such as:

  • Website development.
  • Monetization models.
  • Large-scale storage servers.
  • Software development.
  • Crowdsourcing, gamification, other novel approaches.

Theory of Change logic suggests that the infrastructure component of the framework enable continuous improvement of the system. Thus, an appropriate infrastructure approach will facilitate collaborative public/private solutions and help reduce risks involved in new business models.


The last component of the sequence is scaling the results to a broader audience. A widely available, comprehensive and easy to implement system will produce results for stakeholders. For example, having a robust, open source preservation and access software system available from a trusted third-party may allow for quicker and broader adoption than most commercial options.

JDNA plans to develop an archive preservation model using media assets from the Columbia Missourian, KBIA and KOMU-TV as a test bed. In order to scale up, JDNA plans to facilitate public/private partnerships to underwrite the cost of archive preservation and access. Necessary elements that will ensure vitality of the systems include finding and expanding viable models, publicity and partnerships, education and outreach to appropriate cultural and heritage organizations.