Dynamist Blog

The Importance of Permanence

Jay Rosen has a smart post on the demise of TimesSelect. (His "consent decree" metaphor doesn't quite work, but don't let that stop you from reading.) In keeping with his own strategy for high Google rankings, it's not only thoughtful but brings together other people's insights. Here's a sample:

Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 says NYTimes.com is ahead of other sites in "realizing the value of premium content by opening it up to the web?s link-based economy." When the Times bought About.com it brought an open-to-search mentality into its organization, and it's paying off. (About 80 percent of About's traffic is from search.) Times Select was always in conflict with that.

The reasons why were captured in Simon Waldman's guest post at PressThink, The Importance of Being Permanent. (Jan. 2005) As the director of digtial strategy and development for the Guardian Media Group (UK, but soon to launch in America), he had come to realize that the professional premium is better located there. Etch yourself into the Web as a record of key events. Waldman spoke lines the Times has accepted in its consent decree abandoning "Select."

Permanence is about ensuring you have a real presence on the Net. It is a critical part of having a distinctive identity in an increasingly homogenous landscape. It is about becoming an authority and a point of reference for debate. It is about everything we want and need to be.

Without permanence you slip off the search engines. Without permanence, bold ideas like "news as conversation" fall away, because you're shutting down the conversation before it has barely started. Without permanence, you might be on the web, but you're certainly not part of it.

Now they want to be a part of it. Not a good sign, then, that pay wall logic lives on in the archive policy the Times has adopted after Times-Select. Staci Kramer had this: "Much of the NYT's archives--the past 20 years and the public domain years of 1851-1922--will be opened, Vivian Schiller, SVP and GM of NYTimes.com., told me in an interview earlier today. Some content from 1923-1986 also will be available for free but the primary use of those years will be for e-commerce, Schiller said."

From World War One to the end of the Cold War it makes sense for the Times to charge? Well, I guess they didn't consent to everything. There are still executives at the Times company holding out against the logic of the open Web. For these people it's truly midnight in the cathedral of news. The Times has decided it's better off in the bazaar.

Now if my bosses at The Atlantic would let the magazine out from behind the subscriber wall. Since the site's redesign, Google News doesn't even pick up my columns.

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