NY Times (gasp!) begins linking to outside web sites


Back in the ancient 1990s creatures called newspaper reporters would race to get a scoop — a bit of news so mesmerizing it would sell papers, and something so fresh competitors couldn’t re-report it until at least a day later. When a reporter won, the newspaper turned from commodity into gold for 24 hours.

No more. Now information flows everywhere and newspapers are dying because of it. Revenues are down, NYT stock has been battered to only $10.68 a share, and ad dollars are expected to flow further away to vast networks of niche blogs and video sites.

NYT is responding smartly by beginning to integrate blogs and outside media into its own reporting. Links began appearing in August on the NYT Ideas blog. The Annotated New York Times respins the NYT home page with feeds from the acquired Blogrunner. Caroline McCarthy of CNET notes NYTimes.com itself will soon launch a TimesExtra version to add feeds from around the internet.

This seems like a no-brainer, given the average web user tendency to leap from site to site, but large online news publishers have long resisted linking to other news sites — an anachronistic point of view tied to the ancient days of scooping. (Today, “scoops” last about 10 seconds, not 24 hours.) Brian Stelter of NYT wrote recently that this commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Link To Outside Sites,” actually hurt the media by making them seem less relevant than other sites enabling site-to-site information flow.

Readers and advertisers are moving elsewhere. The cat is out of the bag. Kudos to the Times for admitting it, and herding some of those cats back.

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