Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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More on RSS: Washington Post

Quick New York Times update: I got a lot of feeds in around 10 p.m. last night. Whether this is a result of technology or updating, I don’t know yet. I also haven’t gotten the Week in Review feed yet today.

On the Washington Post:

I subscribe to the general Washington Post feed as well as a nifty feed that tells me how my representatives in Congress are voting. (That’s a super-neat feature by the way.)

Only about 10 feeds in on the main feed so far, though most are also visible on the Washington Post home page. Again, nothing to multimedia packages.

So maybe newspapers just haven’t figured out this RSS thing yet. I would assume that the best times to send out feeds would be early morning, right before the lunch hour, in the evening and later at night. Instead most of the feeds come in late at night, with only a straggle throughout the day. Also, I’m not getting feeds containing or linking to multimedia.

If newspaper sites are still focused on page views, they’re more than six months behind the trend. I have the option to gather news into a feed reader from any source I want, for the most part bypassing the site itself unless I’m interested enough to go poke around.

My conclusion, and advice to news Web sites: Make me want to poke you!

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RSS feeds from online newspapers

I’ve noticed some discussion about news feeds lately.

Mindy McAdams chewed out the Gainesville Sun:

I’ve got 15 headlines here, and only five of them are local news. (Two of those are about sports, plus one about football tickets.) Then there is the maybe-editorial. And three letters to the editor. Leaving six wire or syndicated stories in your incredibly puny feed…

Meranda Watling says her paper’s got a good mix of stories, but

There is almost universally no importance hierarchy for daily updates.

So I decided to have a look at how the big dogs handle RSS. In this case, the New York Times.

First of all, the New York Times has their feeds broken up into sections like “Home Page,” “International,” “Technology” and “Week in Review.” I am subscribed to these four sections.

It’s 2 p.m. and I’ve got 11 feeds from the NYT Home Page. Now, maybe it’s the time lag, but only three of these are currently on the Web site home page, and the multimedia on the Web site doesn’t show up in the feeds.

*Note* Feed updated at 2:17 and brought in another story from the home page.

The “International” feed is “World” on the Web site. Again, no multimedia in the feed, but better coordination between the feed and the page.

In my “Technology” feed, I’ve got a couple of the smaller stories, none of the more interesting or larger packages from the site.

Tomorrow I’ll look at how the “Week in Review” feed is organized.

So far it doesn’t look like anyone really has RSS figured out.

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A shrinking “marketplace of ideas”

In today’s Editing class, Professor Rodgers talked about the media monopolies and shriveling newsrooms.

The Boston Globe is closing three foreign bureaus. Other papers are restricting international and national coverage. The newsroom is getting smaller as media companies like Times cut budgets and lay off employees in a rush to increase profits and concentrate on the Internet.

Over the past 10 years, the number of major media companies has gone from 50 to 5.

I guess the CEOs figure that the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and AP wire can handle the in-depth, large-scale reporting. They’ve become more obsessed with profits, despite the fact that newspapers still provide a better return on investments than any other industry.

But one of the principles behind the free press is the “marketplace of ideas.” If papers trade in their own voices for those of larger outlets, the number of voices in the arena, the number of perspectives heard by the public, is reduced. And we, the public, won’t stand for that. Instead we’ll retreat even further into the Internet, searching for the news and voices we want.

We’ve already started to shift our loyalties to bloggers (vloggers, mobloggers, etc.) and alternate sources of news. That’s why you, Mr. Media CEO, are getting rid of seasoned reporters and recruiting newbies with online capabilities.

Way to shoot yourself in the foot.

On the other hand, I’ve heard and read a lot about the future of newspapers being hyper-local. This suggests that people are more interested in what goes on in their neighborhoods than across the ocean. The social implications of that are just scary.

I want to know what’s going on down the street from my house. I also want to know what’s going on on the other side of the world. And I want to hear it from the left, the right, the middle, the opinions, the facts, the stories. Because that’s the only way I can decide what my world is like.

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New York Times Blogs and Newspaper Web site stats

The New York Times has staff blogging about:

  • Bits – newest gadgets and trends
  • First Look – new features and services
  • Carpetbagger – movie awards
  • The Lede – news stories
  • The Caucus – elections
  • Pogue’s Posts – technology
  • DealBook – business
  • The Pour – wine, beer and spirits
  • Diner’s Journal – restaurants
  • The Public Editor’s Journal – responds to reader complaints/comments
  • Dream Home Diaries – the epic tale of home construction
  • Screens – Web video and media
  • The Empire Zone – politics in NY, NJ, And Conn.
  • Tierney Lab – science
  • The Fifth Down – fantasy football
  • Wheels – cars

In addition, this article reports that newspaper blog traffic has tripled from 1.2 million viewers a year ago to 3.8 million in December 2006.

Blog pages accounted for 13 percent of overall visits to newspaper sites in that month, up from 4 percent a year earlier. Total visitors to the top newspaper sites rose 9 percent to 29.9 million.

Lookin’ good!

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New York Times Google Maps Travel Mashup

Everyone is surely tired by now of the ludicrous “People of the Year is You” award from Times Magazine.

So turn instead to this neat Google Maps mash-up at the New York Times on travel destinations for 2007. While clicking on the happy little Times symbol to read an article about that area is certainly cool, shouldn’t there be another way to access that same information? I guess you can search for it in their nifty search bar, but perhaps a sidebar with links to each article would serve as well.

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Newspaper News

Well, this is one way to solve the newspaper/Internet/circulation problem:
The New York Times is offering free access to its TimesSelect online opinion section Nov. 6 to 12 through an advertising sponsorship deal with Philips electronics. Link

I’m not convinced. There are plenty of sites online where people can find the kind of thing they would see on TimesSelect. In fact, there are a lot of blogs that discuss the same topics.

The difference is the reliability and expertise that newspaper opinion pieces are supposed to have. This is a distinction that I think grows smaller all the time. Anyone can write anything, and while that includes the phonies, it also includes the experts.

The Times and other newspapers need to find their niche online. Journalists need to stop pussyfooting around the White House. The watchdogs need some serious crossbreeding.

Along similar lines, Google may be the financial grace of companies like Gannett, the Tribune Company, The New York Times Company, the Washington Post Company and Hearst.

I love Google for all its Web2.0 terrificness. I ain’t got no crystal ball, but I see Google gobbling up companies like YouTube and then providing a crutch to newspaper companies…
Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean Google isn’t after you.

5/4/2009 Update: The Times took down their paywall, and are apparently thinking about putting it back up. The AP and others are trying to block Google, and one company is trying to create iTunes for news. The stupidity is astounding. I hope they fail fast, so we can experiment with ideas that have a chance.