The Paper of Record ... But Not in the Blogosphere
It's been a couple of weeks now since TimesReject came online, and I have an observation: it has been a huge boon for the Washington Post. While the Times has restricted its most read online content and restricted other internet-only content to its subscribers, the WaPo has gone the other direction. They've given print space to bloggers, covered bloggers in their media coverage, created their own blogs, and most alluring (to bloggers), they now have a little box on each page powered by Technorati that searches the net for blogs linking to the page.
I know my own behavior has shifted pretty dramatically. Back when I was writing Notes, the Times tended to be my go-to paper. Because about half the content in any given paper will be found in most other papers, bloggers have one or two they depend on to capture the big news (like say if DeLay gets indicted). Most of the liberals went to the Times because they have a massive news department and cover more news than any other single paper. (The conservatives went there too, but they resented having to.)
No more. The WaPo has made several moves that make it the bloggers' fave. Most newspapers still offer a fairly static online presence, updating only major breaking news; they usually have a section that picks stuff of the AP wire as well. The WaPo, though, has gotten more bloggy and created more interaction. (Actually, whether it is the bloggers' fave is, I suppose, an open question. I haven't done a statistical analysis of even dubious measure, so I'm flying on observation and what I see at Memeorandum, an automated site that tracks the most-linked stories.)
In addition to the blogs, they have a thing called the "Post Politics Hour," where readers can pose questions to political journalists. Unlike the Times, which posts all its regular print content sometime around midnight eastern time, the WaPo posts columns throughout the day (Kurtz at ten am, Froomkin at noon, etc.). This gives them time to respond to the news of the day and gives readers a reason to check in. It feels far more interactive. The Times, perpetually stuck on a once-a-day reporting cycle, gets stale by midafternoon--and worse, they never have the chance for interactive reportage. It's strictly old-school, voice-of-God didactism.
Of course, both have made their calculations with the bottom line in mind. The Post thinks driving traffic to its site will give advertisers a reason to pay a premium, while the Times has decided to try to get readers to pay for popular content. Hard to say which approach will have the better effect on the balance sheet. But for bloggers, the choice seems clear: WaPo is the far more useful internet source.
[Update: Kevin Drum reports that he hasn't made the WaPo switch: he still links to the Times--the other Times--more often (readers of his blog already know that). He urges someone to do an actual statistical study, which I heartily second. Someone other than me.]