Earlier this year, Reuters decided to bring its archive footage to the centre of the business, and to date has half a million video clips available as a result of its digitisation process.
As well as enhancing your offering and allowing audiences to better understand current stories, archived content can also provide a new revenue stream for your business.
Amy Duffin of FIPP spoke to Time Inc. UK’s information manager, David Abbott, who is on a mission to maximise the potential of the company's vast collection of archive material.
How far do Time Inc. UK’s archives go back?
Around 160 years – we started off with titles like the The Field launched in 1853 but at that point they were more like specialist newspapers – without images or illustrations. By the 1890s, we started publishing comics, which contain the first illustrations. From that point onwards, the focus changed slightly and was more comic-based and illustrative.
For example, certain characters emerged, like Sexton Blake who began in 1893 (similar to Sherlock Holmes), who has been used throughout the company’s history. He featured in comics, radio plays, and there was even a TV series about him. He’s one of our longest-standing, most important characters.
What is the potential to revive/revisit these characters now, in terms of syndication?
With Sexton Blake, for example, there are conversations being had about how we can potentially use him now. We’ve had enquiries, which may lead to things; we’ve let production companies pitch ideas out to TV producers off the back of the Sherlock Holmes revival in the UK.
We’ve also optioned some of our characters to film production companies, but it’s a really ‘long game’ in terms of partnering up to do the right things at the right time.
At what point in the archive do the images really start to stand out?
Although the magazine brands began like newspapers, they gradually became more interesting in terms of imagery, and began producing illustrated covers. Around the start of First World War, comics were being produced in colour and with very detailed illustrations. Looking at the comics themselves now [in small scale] doesn’t do them justice – the illustrations are fantastic, and so detailed.
By the 1920s and 1930s, Science Fiction became popular and things became a little more adventurous in terms of imagery. There was also a big focus on sport in the 1920s. Modern Boy was published during this time and features motorbikes, cars, trains, speed and action.
In the 1950s and 1960s the romance genre was huge, and we’ve got some amazing illustrated covers from then that we can license today.
How are the archived images being used today?
Through a syndication programme, we’re talking to various organisations about how our images can be used. To begin with, we’re interested in producing high-end limited edition gallery prints for the B2C market. Previously under our brand ‘Drawn Ink’ we have worked with the Royal Mail, who did a series of stamps based on comics using some of our images. They also did several spin-offs, like postcards and posters. It was a really great project to work on!
In the last few years, we’ve also had a series of cushions and fabrics printed using our images, which have retailed in stores like John Lewis. This business develops in all sorts of ways. For example, cowboys were very popular in the 1950s, and some of our cowboy images were used for these cushions because the images are still desirable today. We used a series of 12 images in total – it was tough to choose which 12 to use from our extensive archive.