November 1st, 2007
NYTimes.com wasn’t the first traditional media brand to aggregate third-party content — and it certainly won’t be the last. But the New York Times, once considered the national newspaper of record, represented one of the last bastions of the traditional media approach to content, i.e. we produce it ALL ourselves.
And if anyone makes a credible run at doing it all by themselves, it’s the Times, which generates a prodigious volume of the highest quality content every day.
But in a networked media world, where news consumers have access to EVERY piece of content produced by EVERY news outlet large and small (and with high quality news outlets proliferating on the web), media is undergoing a seismic shift — it’s no longer strictly about producing and distributing your OWN content.
Media is now about distributing the BEST content — and Times has embraced this new reality with the launch of its new technology section, which incorporates third-party headlines surfaced by Blogrunner (which the Times acquired very quietly last year — and which uses a TechMeme-like algorithm based on link patterns) and then selected with input from Times editors.
According to NYTimes.com Tech Editor Saul Hansell (who, in a refreshing and highly effective twist, did the pitching to bloggers about the site launch):
Unlike Google News and Techmeme, we aren’t trying to prove machines can be better editors than people. We have a hybrid model, with Web Crawlers and Editors both helping find and ranks posts.
As to how the interaction between the Times’ human editors and Blogrunner’s algorithms ultimately plays out, Saul wisely says its still a “work in progress” — as all new media experiments should be. Try it. See what happens. And learn as you go. That’s the disposition of smart media companies.
The New York Times joins what I expect will be a rapidly expanding list of media brands that aim to create value for their readers by aggregating the best third-party content from across the web and thereby take an important step towards transforming media into a dynamic, collaborative, and fully networked endeavor.