New York Times + external links = smart

by Mathew on December 4, 2008 · 15 comments

There have been hints for awhile now that the New York Times was going to start adding links to third-party content on its front page, and now it appears to have finally happened, with the launch of something called Times Extra. The paper has been doing this for some time now on its technology front page, using links aggregated by BlogRunner — the meme-tracker the company acquired a couple of years ago — as well as through content-syndication agreements with blog networks like GigaOm (which I write for), as well as VentureBeat and Read/Write Web.

As Rick Turoczy at Read/Write Web notes in his post, this may not seem like a huge deal to many people. After all, links to external sources are the life-blood of the Web, right? They are like currency now — with Google as the central banker. But for traditional news media, linking out to someone else is a big step. Not only are you sending people away from your site (an argument I used to hear all the time, mostly from the ad department, but less so now) but you are effectively admitting that you don’t know everything. I recall several discussions with senior editors after the BBC decided to start adding external links to its news stories, and there was a lot of concern about whether this was a good thing or not.

As my friend Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 has pointed out time and time again, linking is a good thing — a very good thing. After all, one of the most highly-trafficked websites in the world, a little page known as the Drudge Report, consists of nothing but links to other sources. My argument continues to be that if you become a trusted source of valuable content — both your own news stories and links to high-quality content elsewhere — then your readership will increase. I assume the New York Times has come to the same conclusion (Erick Schonfeld doesn’t like the fact that the links clutter up the front page, which I think is a fair point; it might be better to have them on the individual article pages).

On a related note, I hope to be able to announce some similar steps at the Globe and Mail in the not-too-distant future. Also worth reading is a recent post at the Nieman Journalism Lab blog, in which Frank Rich of the New York Times talks about why he includes links in his columns (thanks to Darren Barefoot for reminding me about that piece).

  • http://www.nospinpr.com Ruth Seeley

    This is wonderful news. When you're reading an actual newspaper it's easy enough to use the computer at the same time to 'research the research' but it's much harder to do that online, flipping from one screen to another.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks for the comment, Ruth. I completely agree.

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  • http://didyouknow.org txtface

    More news is good news – and more views (perceptions) are even better still. And it certainly helps for their stickiness: one can hardly read all they have on offer and I, for one, find myself going back to catch up where I left behind earlier in the day even if only to pick up on links I noticed.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks, Eric. I thought that was the case, and that the syndicated
    stuff just shows up on the tech hub — I should maybe clarify that.

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  • http://www.techcrunch.com Erick Schonfeld

    Matthew, fyi, the Times Extra links come only from Blogrunner, not any of the syndicated blogs (unless those blogs show up in Blogrunner.

  • http://kennygrant.ca Vancouver House DJ

    the big questions i'm wondering.. do these links on nytimes open in the same window or a new one. I doubt its the same window.

  • http://culturekitchen.com liza

    interesting. i am not logged into the NYTimes site and i can't see those links. haven't tested it by logging into the site, but as of 5:55pm, those external links are gone from the front page for non-registered or logged in users.

  • http://lizasabater.com liza

    oh, never mind. you do have to click on their “extra” ad to get to that version of the site. i guess their testing it. oh well.

    both my blogs are always locked out of these experiments as they tend to exclude independent latino and women bloggers. needless to say latinas get it both ways :D

  • http://telugunews.org amol

    Linking out is a HOT web 2.0 trend followed by almost every blogger & web 2.0 websites. New York Times has adapted to change, I hope yahoo news & other big boys in news industry will also start linking out soon.

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