May 22nd, 2008

New York Times Embraces Link Journalism

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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).

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • nicole

    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!

  • @Scott

    Excellent use of linking to defend linking!

  • Bill Amstutz

    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.

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