It’s been all over the genealogy news since yesterday that Ancestry.com plans to purchase Archives.com for $100 million.
About 40 employees of Archives.com will become part of Ancestry.com.
Until the acquisition goes through the regulatory approval process, the companies will continue to operate as separate entities. It’s unclear how long the process could take.
In a conference call last night with the genealogy media, Archives.com CEO Joe Godfrey and Ancestry.com president Tim Sullivan addressed issues of concern to many family historians.
Here, I’ve summarized their comments as they relate to some of the questions I’ve been hearing from genealogists:
Is Ancestry.com just trying to eliminate a competitor?
Archives.com’s parent company Inflection is focusing on public records and people-searching (it owns the people-searching website peoplesmart), diverging from Archives.com’s historical records mission. Godfrey and Sullivan say this acquisition makes sense for all parties.
Current plans call for Archives.com to remain largely as is. “We see a different experience in Archives.com. It’s priced and positioned differently [from Ancestry.com]. It’s another important service that we can continue to invest in,” Sullivan says. He vows to invest in Archives.com’s content and technology.
The acquisition gives Ancestry.com the opportunity to offer a genealogy product at a lower price point (Archives.com subscribers pay $39.95 a year, to Ancestry.com’s $155.40).
Nor is the acquisition a response to the entry into the US genealogy market of companies such as brightsolid (owner of findmypast.com) and MyHeritage, Sullivan says. He emphasized a positive view of the genealogy category’s growth and the increase in competition, saying it’s an indication of the health of the category.
Sullivan says Ancestry.com may work with Inflection in the future, describing the potential opportunity as “tremendous.”
Will the sites be too similar?
Sullivan and Godfrey say there’s some overlapping content on Archives.com and Ancestry.com, but that how the user experiences each site’s content is different and will remain so. “One thing we won’t do is make Archives.com like the Ancestry.com user experience,” Sullivan says.
“Even though some content might overlap, the way it is presented will have different value propositions to different users,” Godfrey adds.
What will happen with the 1940 Census Community Project?
The project, whose partners FamilySearch, Archives.com and FindMyPast.com are recruiting volunteers to index the 1940 census, won’t be affected, say both men.
Godfrey encouraged volunteers to continue indexing. “Nothing will change as far as the partnership, and nothing will change as far as making the index available for free,” he says.
Sullivan says that when FamilySearch was seeking partners in this volunteer indexing project, Ancestry.com leadership discussed it at length and ultimately decided that “it wasn’t structured in a way that completely was in sync with what we wanted to do with 1940.”
He added that Ancestry.com would support Archives.com’s participation in the project.
Does this form a monopoly?
They couldn’t elaborate on the regulatory approval process for the acquisition, but neither Sullivan nor Godfrey foresees problems. “We’re doing this for the right reasons. There’s no negative for consumers,” Sullivan says.