Two interesting developments today at the New York Times online:
The first, and most noteworthy, is the paper’s welcome discovery that aggregation of and links to things it didn’t produce in-house improve the audience experience. As the graphic shows, the green-highlighted items below the story summaries are links to coverage in other media — including bloggers and direct competitors. The technology behind this feature comes from Blogrunner, a news aggregator the Times acquired a while back.
No, this is not a new idea. In fact, it’s as old as the Web, and the Times’ own Frank Rich has been doing it liberally for some time in his Sunday column. But to see the Times do it in this way — on the home page (and section homes) is a step forward. It moves the paper much more into the linked world we all now inhabit.
The other interesting item in the online edition is an exchange between U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat who was the subject of a tough investigative piece recently. Rangel replied, and the Times responded right next to his long letter on this page.
The numbers — footnotes, essentially — in the Rangel letter correspond to the newspaper’s responses to his points. Oddly there are no hyperlinks, but that’s a relatively small quibble.
There are even better ways to display these kinds of exchanges. But it’s great to see the paper experimenting with this kind of conversational journalism. I hope these will become more common.
UPDATE: Poynter Online interviewed Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, who said that the paper hadn’t done anything quite like this before. But he added, “I don’t expect it to be the last.”
(Disclosure: I’m own a small amount of New York Times Co. stock, which is worth a lot less than I paid for it…)