May 22nd, 2008

New York Times Embraces Link Journalism

by

The New York Times has certainly embraced blogging, but it was striking to see in this post from The Lede just how much they’ve embraced link journalism:

Scanning the financial press this morning, readers would have seen a disturbing yet familiar burst of oil news: rising prices, aghast lawmakers and protests in Europe. But another piece of bad news topped off the fray, one that was much less familiar to close observers of the oil market:

If that’s an accurate assessment, prices are going to have to double another couple of times to bring demand into line with supply,” Kevin Drum wrote at The Washington Monthly. “$500 oil, anyone?

Already, a financial blogger was out of the gate with a renewed call to boost domestic oil production

What prompted the new jump? It’s never an easy question to answer, as The Washington Post explained in its lead coverage today

As for today’s uptick to $135, another report from Bloomberg News blamed traders engaged in wrong-way betting. The wrong bet, by the way, was for cheaper oil.

As Milton Ezrati, senior strategist at money manager Lord Abbett, told USA Today: “It’s the next black beast.”

Wow, just look at all the third-party sources linked here: Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Washington Monthly, Washington Post, USA Today, and an independent blogger! The value for the reader here is enormous — not only do they get Times blogger Mike Nizza’s framing and perspective, they get links to all of this original reporting and analysis on this issue.

It’s great to see “the newspaper of record” has so evolved on the web — gone are the days when they to claim they have the last word on a topic or issue. The Times realizes that there is a rich universe of journalism on the web, and they can best serve their readers by helping them find the best reporting, alongside the NYT’s own gold standard reporting.

Here’s an example of why this isn’t just linking, but link JOURNALISM:

The Post article didn’t mention the new estimate on the future of crude. But Bloomberg News tacked it on to the end of an article suggesting that, far from being to blame for the soaring cost of oil, OPEC was in fact powerless to control it, according to one official:

OPEC has “no magic solution’’ to the surge, Qatar’s oil minister said. Prices are “out of the hands’’ of the organization, according to Libya’s top oil official.

Nizza isn’t just lazily linking to these stories — he’s read them, compared them, identified shortcomings, extracted key facts and issues, and connected the dots.

In a traditional newspaper article, all of these facts and analysis would have been synthesized, but the reader wouldn’t have had the opportunity to read for themselves the source material. This post does what journalism is supposed to do — empower people with facts, understanding, and perspective about important issues.

And the Times has clearly gotten over the red herring fear of “sending people away.” The Lede has helped readers make sense of what they read elsewhere, helping to make the Lede more essential than those other source. In my case, the Lede actually helped me figure out what else to read on this issue — by sending me to high quality sources on a topic of interest, as Google does, the Lede has ensured that I’m going to come BACK for more.

In other words, the Times has given me a reason NOT to go to the WSJ or The Washington Post first, and instead come here first — linking to your competitors is a great way to disintermediate them.

I found this Lede post on the front page, as a supporting item to the original reporting for the print newspaper:

The print story quotes lot’s of sources, but of course it has no links, so the reader has only the information that fits in the article. Readers of Nizza’s link journalism piece, on the other hand, have the wealth of many different sources.

But I think the two pieces complement each other well — the New York Times should look for ways to integrate them more tightly.

I’m waiting for the day when NYTimes.com is bold enough to feature a blog post as a top headline on its homepage, and end the content caste system that separates its print journalism from its online journalism.

I’m curious to learn more about Mike Nizza, who did all of this great link journalism. Too bad he’s just an empty byline with no identity on NYTimes.com. Oh well, I guess the NYT still hasn’t fully evolved on the web (hint: the web is about PEOPLE — and journalists are people, too).

Comments (11 Responses so far)

  1. Kudos on this and your other articles on churnalism, Scott. News outlets have got to stop repeating what others have said, especially in wire copy and PR releases, and start linking to original sources. It’ll save all of us so much time. I’m starting to think of the re-publication of news releases under different brands as spam – plugs up my feed reader and Google News.

  2. Some critical questions about The Lede and it’s effectiveness:

    1. Do people reference (link to) the Lede? In the same way people don’t link to Google SERPS, perhaps they do the same with link blogs.

    1a. Do people pass around The Lede over email, add it to a social bookmark, or even print it out to read later?

    1b. Does The Lede generate reciprocal links? Indie blogs like Instapundit thrive on link journalism because blogs in their network link to link back. But the WSJ won’t link back to the NY Times any time soon.

    2. Is the “time on site” lower on The Lede than their other blogs? Sending people away quickly is cool for Google and their direct response text ad network, but no good for a business like the Times who sells display ads for companies who want branding.

    3. Do search engines rank The Lede well? Or does The Lede help the sources it links to rank well?

    4. Do users click through to the sources? I have found in my own blogging that it is better to give readers one link to click to rather than many. They are prone to click only one or two links anyway. So, if a blog post has 8 links, they may be left feeling like they are missing part of the story by not clicking the others. This can make the blog post feel less complete, or authoritative.

  3. [...] May 23, 2008 Links , Media shift Tags: Link Blogging, NY Times, Scott Karp Scott Karp post here. An excerpt: It’s great to see “the newspaper of record” has so evolved on the web — gone [...]

  4. @Hashim:

    The Lede has 50,000 inbound links — not bad.

    The Lede has done well on Digg

    With NYtimes.com high authority domain, you can be sure those links on The Lede help other sites rank.

    And yes, The Lede does rank well.

    Sending people away = less time on site — perhaps display ads aren’t the right business model.

  5. I have noticed the Times using link journalism as well.

    I love reading the Sunday Times in print, but have taken to reading Frank Rich’s column on-line so that I can follow all of the links. It ends up taking me a half an hour to read his column, and it’s one of the best half hours of my week.

  6. @Scott

    Excellent use of linking to defend linking!

  7. This is great! I recently posted a question about this on LinkedIn, wondering if newspapers would ever adopt it or not…glad to see it is!

  8. A couple of years ago, I wrote a post titled Own the news community, not the news: How to save The New York Times. The premise was that news is not ‘ownable’ as it once was. (Whoever could dominate a narrow news channel with a substantial cost of entry ‘owned’ the news. Obviously, those rules no longer apply.) What is valued today is community, and therefore the Times would need to do whatever it took to become the hub of the community. By linking to the ‘wheel’ (bloggers), and by providing them with material worth linking back to (images, charts, videoclips, etc.), the Times has done just that. In fact, the Times is far ahead of any other major media outlet in this area. While the others (WaPo, WSJ, etc. – you know who they are) all link to bloggers and other sources, they mostly just link to bloggers who link them back. In this way, they ‘ghettoize’ them. The Times is more integrated in this way than any other big player.

  9. We were not only linking to other sources at BostonNOW (before its untimely demise last month), but we were publishing bloggers on our sites on the theme appropriate page (sports, entertainment, etc.) not just on a blogger ghetto page.

    We also, and perhaps more importantly, published excerpts of the best blogs in the newspaper, also on the theme-appropriate page, right next to the professionals’ stuff.

    It was working very well, attracting a typically newspaper-averse demographic (18-35 year olds) and generating a real buzz in that community. Too bad the Icelandic investors pulled the plug. But at least we proved it can work!

  10. [...] In addition to this release of Times People, NYT has released/embraced other forms of new media: The New York Times Polling Project to something as simple as Link Journalism. [...]

  11. [...] Additional link: NY Times Embraces Link Journalism [...]

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