editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Bad online practices from the New York Times

March 11th, 2008 · 5 Comments

OK, here’s a prime example of a lost linking opportunity that actually annoyed at least one reader (me).

On Sunday, the New York Times posted a story “Dancers in the Crowd Bring Back ‘Thriller’.” It’s an interesting and entertaining piece about how Sony BMG has used viral marketing as part of the 25th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. Central to the story is that videos of paid dancers breaking into “spontaneous” zombie dances aboard trains and on city streets have become very popular on YouTube, the video sharing site.

Although I’m familiar with the Jackson inspired dance (not that I can do it myself), I found the idea of a video of “zombies” dancing on board a London subway car an entertaining enough idea to check out. The article has visible links to Sony, Kanye West and Fergie (artists who both appear on the a Thriller tribute album) and Tesco. And thanks to their partnership with Answer.com, you can double-click on any term or word for a definition. But nowhere were there any links to the videos on YouTube, nor did the Times decide to embed them.

Instead, the Times forced me to open a new browser window go to YouTube and then search for the videos myself. A rather annoying endeavor that I felt was unnecessary and took up time that I really didn’t want to spend. See, as a reader of the Times, I expect them to be comprehensive in their reporting AND in their print and online presentation. To me, not providing the related links is the Times disrespecting me and frankly, being lazy after all, how big is their online staff?

My guess is, that your readers would feel the same way if you did this to them. But something else to think of, because the Times drove me to find the videos on YouTube myself, I didn’t return to their site. My visit that might have encompassed say half a dozen page views, stopped with that single one. In a time when we’re talking about how to further engage our readers and how to get them to spend more time, is this an opportunity any of us can afford to overlook?

Want to see the videos yourself? Here they are:

Feel free to provide links to others as you come across them.

Tags: Audience Development · Best Practices · Editor on the verge · Editor on the Verge · Metrics · technology · Tools · Traffic

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 shawn smith // Mar 11, 2008 at 6:42 am

    Here here! Agreed with you there. I found the same problem when ESPN was talking about Rudy Gay of the NBA who was asking fans to send in dunk ideas for him in the Dunk contest. What didn’t ESPN do? Link to the video! News orgs need to understand that they are indeed guides to the internet. If they mention anything that can be referenced on the web, especially video or a website URL (how can they miss linking these) that these items need to be linked! Thanks for the vids!

  • 2 Innovation in College Media » Blog Archive » Bad linking practices // Mar 11, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    [...] Greenbaum (editor on the verge) highlights an example of poor linking practices from the New York Times. The Times mentions YouTube videos that are viral efforts to promote the [...]

  • 3 Sean Polay // Mar 12, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Amen, Yoni. NYT’s lack of linking is a chronic problem — and not just at the NYT.

    If only the folks at nytimes.com had read my earlier rants on the subject… witness March 2006.

  • 4 JohnofScribbleSheet // Mar 12, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Newspapers have always been stingy with there links, its very bad etiquette.

  • 5 Why RSS and mobile internet matter to newspapers : Eat Sleep Publish // May 1, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    [...] about the Madison, WI based paper The Capital Times (and, I’m happy to say, the NYT actually linked out in their [...]

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