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New York Times irrelevancy

Good article by Adam L. Penenberg on Wired about why New York Times hardly gets noticed on google.com. It mentions a NYTimes link generator which allows you to transform “bad old links” into “good fresh links.” Thanks to Aaron Swartz for figuring this out. Penenberg writes:

The economics of digital media are certainly working against it — even though Nielsen ranks The New York Times on the Web as the No. 1 newspaper site on the Internet. (And contrast the Times with the Tribune, which spent $600 million to develop an online presence, without much to show for it.) The Times attracts 9 million unique visitors a month, while only about 1 million read the daily paper. But the dot-com makes a scant $11 per user, while the printed paper earns the Times a whopping $900 per reader (in subscription fees and advertising).

This affects me in a direct way. NYT publishes distinguished essays and book reviews, and yet they exist in the closed archives. I wrote an essay on Gao Xingjian’s book Soul Mountain, which though lengthy and thoughtful, is certainly not the definitive book on the subject. In fact, New York Times published two excellent book reviews of this book, one by Nicholas Kristof. But you can’t find them anywhere. The same is true for other mainstream publications. On the other hand, my essay floats to the top of every related search result , and quite frankly, that is a good thing (though bad for readers wanting more opinions).

Now I’m sure that google will fall from grace, and maybe we’ll have some more powerful and more intuitive way of navigating through content. Regardless, the easier it is to take content from another site (without requiring authentication or cookies), the more influential this content will become. In many ways, that’s why slashdot remains such an influential website. It’s interesting to see how three intellectual publications, Reason, Atlantic Monthly and New Yorker have been moving over to a free over-the-web model.

On another note, I’ve noticed that geocities is making sites inactive that haven’t been visited in a while. I find this to be self-defeating. Bandwidth has become extremely cheap, and it’s in geocities’ interest (and ours) to maintain orphaned websites. It’s getting to the point where the individual creator has to pay for content to survive. And after he/she dies? Well, let’s hope that individual had a big estate.

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