My answer is a decided, even shouted “NO!” The impetus for this post is Mark Glaser’s Open Season: News Sites Add Outside Links, Free Content in the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review. In this article, Glazer trumpets the promising developments in some online news sources’ making their sites more accessbile to readers, bloggers and web surfers. One media outlet featured in this story sparked my interest: the New York Times, which I subscribe to here in Seattle; and which provides much of the impetus for my posts on politics and culture.
Here is what Glaser likes about recent developments at the Times’ site:
How liberating it feels to revisit NYTimes.com and notice that there are actually links right inside the technology stories.
NYTimes.com relaunched its Technology page with free archives to its personal technology Circuits section and a planned Weblog from tech journalist David Pogue.
Though I applaud all of the media outlets listed in this story for attempting to improve the interactivity of their sites, this simply isn’t enough, not nearly enough.
While I luxuriate in the richness of the Times’ reportage and the elegance of its writing, I detest the crude, under-featured, disjointed nature of nytimes.com. Right now, most online news sources like nytimes.com are a poor version of a technically sophisticated, seamless digital product. Making the archives of a single columnist like David Pogue free is one small step, but by no means the last.
Here are features I’d like to see at nytimes.com:
1. Links within news stories to external news sites or to the websites mentioned in the story. For example, most journalists’ bylines are not hyperlinked which prevents a reader from learning anything at all about the reporter’s background. There are certainly no external links within stories which there should be as well, especially if they link to these sources as the originators of the story.
2. Trackbacks: why doesn’t the Times create a trackback feature so bloggers can easily link to stories they’re writing about? If I link to 200 NYT stories in my blog, why shouldn’t the Times return the favor by displaying my trackback? Doing this would deepen the dialogue bet. newspaper & reader. It would bring additional visitors to nytimes.com and it would increase blog site traffic.
3. Obliterate the stupid 7-day deadline for free access to online articles. You have to know about Userland’s free NYT hyperlinking service in order to circumvent this idiocy. Bloggers simply cannot do their job with a walled off content system.
4. Radically alter the nytimes.com forums. As of now they are woefully pathetic, poorly organized, feature poor–I could go on & on. I think technologically savvy readers deserve better from this site.
That’s just the surface of my critique. When the Times starts addressing some of these serious deficiencies then I’ll start crowing. Pardon me if I wait & see before I start making any noise.
I have written further on this topic in my blog at Media to Bloggers: “Drop Dead!”