Link journalism and the New York Times

We’ve talked a lot this semester about the “ethic of the link” and the good reasons for news organizations to stop treating their Web sites like walled gardens and start linking outside. It looks like the New York Times could be taking a “quantum leap forward” with a feature called Times Extra, according to this item from Fast Company:

Currently in internal beta, Times Extra will feature links to stories from other publications under every article. This includes pieces from competitors that take a different stance. “For many it was a radical move, but it’s very much of the web and we think it will engender loyalty,” a Times exec said.

As we consider the role of professional journalists and editors in a future of user-generated news and information, consider this observation made by Pam Horan, President of the Online Publishers Association (again, quoting from Fast Company):

Horan kicked things off by outlining what she believes are the three most important things for any publisher or advertiser to remember: deliver content that is relevant, deliver content that has a voice and that will resonate with the consumer, and deliver content that is real – in other words that radiates authority.

As user generated content becomes increasingly popular, it becomes proportionally difficult to verify the authenticity of this content or to exercise quality control. Horan claimed that studies show 76% of internet users would appreciate the assistance of an editor in vetting information available online.

Schiller then weighed in, offering her thoughts on the changing role of the editor from someone who is curating content created by journalists and columnists to now curating content from across the web.

The New York Times’s topics pages are now slowly beginning to curate more than just original content – they’re also aggregating and presenting related headlines from all over the web. “We’re professional editors – we’re going to send you wherever you need to be. If you go away that’s fine, but we’re sure you will come back. This will ultimately work to benefit of our traffic revenue.”

Publish2’s Scott Karp puts together a nice overview of how the Times already has experimented with link journalism in its Web evolution. As he notes, simply linking is not link journalism; it’s about become a go-to site for aggregation by providing context, critique and expert analysis. In this way, the Times’ blog The Lede is, well, leading the way in this domain, and making itself a major player precisely because it links out effectively:

… 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.

p.s. We may look more at Publish2 in the coming weeks as we talk about new models for news in the future.

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