NYT Launches Times Wire

After launching, just yesterday, its Times Reader 2.0—an update of the visually sectionalized version of its online newspaper—The New York Times today launches Times Wire, a nearly opposite approach to news presentation. The service aggregates the paper’s online content—articles and blog posts—and presents that content, via headline and a two-line dek, in reverse-chronological order.

Times Wire is essentially a brand-specific RSS feed: a “river of news,” in RSS founder Dave Winer’s term, that flows into a feed as it’s published. (The platform is automatically refreshed every minute.) Branding, however, in this case, includes customization: Times Wire users can tailor their own versions of the service—selecting whether to view the full stream of stories (“ALL NEWS”), whether to winnow the flow down to specific sections (“YOUR NEWS”), etc.—or they can merge the Times Wire feed into their existing RSS platforms. The Times Wire page also features a photo section—a collection of caption-less images—which exhorts viewers to click on a photo to view related article. (This last feature, I’d predict, will be the first to be modified in a 2.0 version of the Times Wire platform: as compelling as photos can be, they’re of limited use in the absence of textual context—and thus of limited attraction when it comes to clickability.)

Taken together, Times Reader and Times Wire represent two countervailing approaches to online news presentation: the former, a rather static, graphical approach to news delivery (with an emphasis on editorial decision-making); the latter, a dynamic and linear approach (with an emphasis on automated inclusivity rather than editorial exclusivity). The simultaneous existence of both platforms as news delivery options for Times readers, therefore, has the makings of a nicely controlled experiment about what audiences really want when it comes to online news presentation.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.