NYTimes Values Tracking Over Visitors; Keeps Freakonomics Feeds Crippled

from the partially-ineffective dept

It appears that despite the massive amount of reader backlash against the NY Times for switching the Freakonomics blog to partial RSS feeds rather than full feeds, the powers that be have decided to keep the feeds partially crippled. In the long explanation, Stephen Dubner references my own post about why full feeds actually increase page views, but basically says that it wasn’t convincing enough for the money watchers at the Times. The reasoning behind the decision is pretty tortured, and Scott Karp does a fantastic job ripping it apart:

“Sure, you can’t place tracking cookies in these people’s browsers or serve behaviorally target ads. But HOW IS THAT BETTER THAN NOT REACHING THEM AT ALL??? The idea that publishers, under pressure from advertisers, can put the horses back in the barn and get people to consume content through channels that publishers fully control, just like in old offline monopoly media, is so reactionary that it really does amount to betting against the Internet. It’s true that adoption of RSS is still relatively low, but when you take the case of the Freakonomics blog — where MOST of the readers read it via RSS — the idea that you could somehow change ALL of their behavior, i.e. force them to come to the New York Times, is just ludicrous. There’s no other word for it. Really, what’s the point of “partnering” with the Freakonomics blog only to alienate the vast majority of the readers? How is that creating value for advertisers? So you can show ads to the few angry, resentful readers who reluctantly come to the New York Times?”

The NY Times’ reasoning reminds me of the ridiculous reasoning that many newspapers (including the NY Times!) gave for many years about why they had to put up registration walls to get to their content. They insisted that they needed much better data about their readers to give to advertisers — not recognizing that in doing so they were getting a lot fewer readers and the data they were getting was often bogus anyway. It’s this same mistaken belief that leads the NY Times to insist it needs partial feeds to give advertisers better tracking data — even if it means fewer of the type of readers that the NY Times should specifically be aiming for. How could that possibly make sense?

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Comments on “NYTimes Values Tracking Over Visitors; Keeps Freakonomics Feeds Crippled”

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Chris Maresca (user link) says:

I pretty much ignore the NYT ...

… so it’s not part of the conversation, as far as I am concerned.

This is mostly due to the registration wall and other NYT annoyances. And when I do read something on their site, I use BugMeNot to login, making all of their tracking pretty useless. I’m surprised that advertisers don’t understand how much garbage data ‘user registration’ gathers….

It’s not like I’m missing much anyhow, since they are usually days or even weeks late on reporting things I’ve seen elsewhere. I think ‘irrelevant’ would be an appropriate description of the New York Times and that pretty much goes for everyone I know and work with as well.


Matt (profile) says:

Re: I pretty much ignore the NYT ...

Word for word you are 100% accurate. That is what I do and for the same reasons and so does everyone at my workplace (a worldwide known business) who reads the NYT. If they hadn’t been this retarded in the first place they wouldnt’ have such problems, but now that they have done so, it is extremely unlikely that unless a NYT article is linked from fark that it will ever in my lifetime become a go-to site for me or ever be given such favor when mentioned to others.

Sanguine Dream says:


considering that news can be found literally all over the net now I really fail to see how the NYT thinks that they hold so much control over the reigns of content that they can just do what they want.

Next I suppose they’ll pay Congress for the ability to sue anyone that covers the same story they do. The NYT has never been a part of my daily web news surfing and now I don’t see much need for it to become one.

Haywood says:

The only ones who will go are students

When you are doing a paper with needed acceptable references, you will do whatever it takes to get the text and link. I couldn’t imagine everyday curiosity driving me to jump through hoops to read their BS. As #1 pointed out bugmenot solves most of those issues,unfortunately when I was doing my papers, it either didn’t exist or I hadn’t yet discovered it.

Just Me says:

First line type?

“It appears that despite the massive about of reader backlash…”
“amount” maybe? Just thought I’d let you know.

As for the article; you mean I was *supposed* to give legit info on those registration pages?!
Darn! Oh well. There must be about a hundred bogus “people” out there just from me alone.

I wonder how many fake names are listed in all these client data db’s all over the world?

Fred says:

I’m one of those who unsubscribed from the Freakonomics feed yesterday. Partial feeds are bad enough, but the NYT follows the typical big media pattern of just grabbing the first x words of a post. This is less than useless in the case of the Freakonomics blog, which tends toward long, yet meaty, posts. A well-written summary in the feed may make it usable, but they don’t provide that.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Re:

A well-written summary in the feed may make it usable, but they don’t provide that.

Yes they do. Bloglines displays the summary instead of the partial feed. For the “Cheating to Be Hot” article I got the following summary in Bloglines:

“Is cheating really so bad, particularly when there’s no punishment involved? Dubner discusses the vote rigging scandal behind the winners of Fishbowl DC’s “Hottest Media Types” contest.”

moondookie says:


I have a question,
Why read the times at all? It seems to me that the growenups there at the times do not value your time or personal info. Personally, The news is better fed from the igoogle or msn type web sites. The rss thing can be fed from almost any other site besides the nytimes site.
news fed to me late isnt really news, it is a diary of events.

Bah who needs one (user link) says:

All of this presupposes that the Times bought the property with the intention of it continuing to operate as normal, while they benefit financially.

However, their behavior is evidence that they bought the property with the intention of knocking it down and paving it over instead, which of course often happens, especially as a way of bumping off a rival while creating more distant parking for rank-and-file grunts so there’s room close to the building for all the management types’ reserved spaces.

Likewise the purpose of registerwalls should be obvious. Since the only piece of data they can actually validate is the e-mail address, the e-mail address must be the thing they find valuable enough to outweigh the effort they take. The rest of the questions must be misdirection. As for what the e-mail address would be good for, I should think that obvious. Needless to say I refuse to register at any web sites these days.

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