New tricks: Bring people in by … sending them away

December 4th, 2008

The New York Times today launched “Times Extra,” which is an alternate front page that links to stories that are NOT produced by the Times.

In the past few months, more and more mainstream media outlets have warmed up to the idea of linking to material outside their own sites. This in effect could turn old media, which is used to being the source of news, into news aggregators, at least sort of like the Drudge Report. The idea behind it is that although you jettison your readers off to other material, they will keep coming back to your site because you are a one-stop shop.

The Dallas Morning News has also waded into this by hand-picking opinion pieces from around the Web and posting them on their opinion page. The material is posted along side their own work — they often even play up material from outside the Morning News above their own.

It makes for a much better user experience, and it is likely to make their opinion page a destination site for people who are looking for smartly chosen opinion pieces from around the Web.

If you maintain a hand-chosen Twitter account (as opposed to dumping RSS onto Twitter) for your news organization, you should also link to outside material. Colonel Tribune and the @statesman do it as a matter of practice. Why not be the place to go to for news, no matter where it comes from?

By new media standards, old media has been very slow to pick up on this idea. Even the Times, which is ahead of most mainstream media in trying Times Extra, isn’t making it the regular home page — users have to click on a tab to get to it. (To find it, click on “Try our extra home page” tab near the top of the paper’s standard home page).

The open exchange of links is what drives information on most of the Web, outside of mainstream media. We doubt this idea will still be embraced at least right away by all in the old media — after all, it is hard for some to believe that sending folks away from your site is a good thing. It’s hard to argue with the numbers, though …

Check out who is on top of the Nielsen Online ratings for news sites for February 2008:

The following is data from Nielsen Online on the top 30 sites in the “News” category based on February 2008 traffic. This data takes into account U.S. home and work Internet usage, and it shows both unique visitors to each brand or channel and sessions per person. For more information about the sourcing of this data, please visit www.netratings.com.
Brand or channel; sessions per person; unique audience (000)
1. drudgereport.com; 19.9; 3,445
2. Daily Kos; 8.9; 1,204
3. Fox News Digital Network; 8.3; 10,177
4. CNN Digital Network; 7.9; 37,181
5. AOL News; 7.7; 21,119
6. Yahoo! News; 7.4; 35,274
7. MSNBC Digital Network; 6.4; 34,013
8. ksl.com; 6.0; 796
9. Breitbart.com; 5.3; 2,674
10. Google News; 5.3; 12,050
11. Gannett Newspapers and Newspaper Division; 5.1; 13,998
12. NYTimes.com; 4.9; 18,975
13. Netscape; 4.8; 2,709
14. Townhall.com; 4.7; 1,152
15. Media General Newspapers; 4.6; 1,761
16. GTGI Network 4.5; 1,345
17. Star Tribune; 4.3; 2,108
18. TWC News Websites; 4.1; 840
19. NewsMax.com; 4.0; 4,054
20. Zwire; 3.9; 1,089
21. Cox Newspapers; 3.9; 5,197
22. washingtonpost.com; 3.8; 10,441
23. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; 3.8; 1,259
24. The Buffalo News^; 3.7; 502
25. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 3.6; 1,472
26. MediaNews Group Newspapers; 3.5; 5,850
27. USATODAY.com; 3.5; 10,571
28. WorldNow 3.5; 10,588
29. IB Websites; 3.4; 7,565
30. St. Louis Post Dispatch; 3.4; 1,022
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Entry Filed under: New Tricks,Newspaper

  • http://www.newtonashville.net mattbigelow

    I applaud NYT for trying this given the immense inertia of their old media brethren, but part of me can't help but ask myself, so what? They've finally figured out what originally made Yahoo! popular circa 1994 and become a portal?

    OK, OK, link journalism is quite different from being a portal, I know. But it just seems so…unimpressive…?

  • http://oldmedianewtricks.com Robert Quigley

    It is a bit unimpressive … if you look at it from an new media perspective. But I think it's impressive that old media is embracing it (sort of). Would be nice, though, if the NYT did two things: Post material to things they are NOT already covering and include the material in their main home page instead of in a separate test site. Baby steps, though, right?

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuartfoster

    Absolutely adore this new direction that the NY Times is taking. Having people use your site as a hub can be a great thing (ask google) and then sending them off to various places will spread the love even more. The NYTimes is finally taking advantage of something that blogs have been doing for years…linking out, and affiliate marketing. Hope this change is here to stay, as I will probably start reading the NY Times even more.

  • http://danielhonigman.com dan360man

    Only if it pulls in content from Old Media, New Tricks — right?

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuartfoster

    I'm a PR person Dan…remember that…I love sexy sexy framing :) and the NYTimes (whether it works or not) has done a damn good job in selling this to the media (and sharehilders) as a big step forward. I wish they'd spend the money on better writers and actual people…but that isn't as sexy.

  • http://www.jsonline.com Sharif Durhams

    So maybe I'm the only “hater.” I'd rather have the related links on individual story pages than on the front of the site. Putting those stories on front clutters too much for me.

    And the fact that the headlines are just snatched from articles on the related site is also a problem for me. I can't tell what different info. the related story is going to provide. I guess that's the disadvantage of using a bot.

    I'm down with link journalism, just not loving the implementation.

    Let the shouting down begin.

  • http://danielhonigman.com dan360man

    That's true. A lot of the links in most recommendation engines are done via key words, etc., rather than by demographics or behavioral targeting.

    Could you imagine if related content could be provided by off-site Web behavior? That would be ideal.

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