Today The New York Times launched an online live news aggregator. Technically speaking it's not on par with an all-Kindle digital distribution business plan, but it's actually pretty good.
The new service is called Times Wire, and it lists news items and blog posts in reverse chronological order as a kind of interactive ticker-tape feed. It's also not as simple as a dumb timeline, and users can actually customize how it displays: You can narrow the parameters for what's included in the timeline, choose favorite writers, or click on the Business and Technology tab to select stories from those topics only. There's also a photo news gallery, which take visitors to related stories when clicked.
Essentially what the Times has done is condense its entire news site down into a linear data list—a kind of Twitter feed for news. Considering how hot a topic live data is at the moment, especially given Twitter's increasing status as a live news-gatherer, it's actually an interesting development for the NYTimes's online presence, although the rate at which new stories are added is not particularly speedy (13 updates in the last six hours, as I write this). It was made possible using the Times's new API, which it released to help other developers gain access to its data.
Just yesterday the Times also released a new version of its Times Reader application—unlike the Times Wire it's a way to view the Times in electronic format as if you were reading the paper itself. The new version is organized much more like the print-run version than previously, which is apparently a response to requests made by subscribers. Now video feeds are also embedded, and there's a digital version of the crossword as well, along with a browse feature that enables you to rapidly scan all the pages of the paper. Compared to the Wire version, it's about as close to having a once-a-day digital newspaper experience as you can get—The Times is clearly trying to innovate its content delivery in numerous directions at once.
Can these digital tweaks save the newspaper as a medium? Who knows, but at least the Times is following the age-old advice If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That's because Times Wire is a recasting of the Times' prime content as much more of a blog, right down to the clickable images. Interestingly, it's blogs and other online news sites that are responsible for the decline in sales of traditional newspapers.
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