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Searching for The New York Times

Adam Penenberg in Wired notes that "the paper of record" is anything but in cyberspace.

How can the mighty New York Times, which considers itself America's paper of record, be the paper of record in cyberspace when its articles barely show up on Google?

This has to be more than just a slight irritation to the Times, because search engines play a key role: They collate information, and on the Internet there's a whole lot of that, often too much. (Hence the term data smog.) In essence, they act as informational portals. So if you're trying to get the dope on your favorite author, hip-hop MC or representative, or learn more about an important issue dominating the news, your first stop may very well be Google.

But recently, when I googled the terms "Iraq torture prison Abu Ghraib" -- certainly one of the most intensively covered news stories of the year -- the first New York Times article was the 295th search result, trailing the New Yorker, Guardian, ABC and CBS News, New York Post, MSNBC, Slate, CNN, Sydney Morning Herald, Denver Post, USA Today, Bill O'Reilly on FoxNews and a host of others news sites.

What's more, tons of other non-traditional news sources came ahead of the Times, including a number of blogs and low-budget rabble-rousers like Antiwar.com, CounterPunch, truthout and Beliefnet (a site dedicated to spirituality). So did Al-Jazeera (twice). But the Times still ranked low, even after it plastered an Abu Ghraib story on its front page for 32 straight days between May and June. And Google isn't the only one to shun the Times: I got similar results from other search engines (AltaVista, Lycos, Yahoo).

If The Times, WSJ, and Washington Post want to wall off their content, I for one will not feel in the least bit sorry that their stories are so poorly ranked in the search algorithms. I avoid links to those three sources (and other mandatory registration sites) and much as possible because of their policies. Any time they want to improve their standing they can: change their registration requirements; make archive links durable and free; and encourage others to link to their content. Once they do that they may be able to beat the blogs.

Given the accuracy in the Times maybe it belongs where it is showing up?


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Comments (5)

It might be worth noting th... (Below threshold)

It might be worth noting that a number of media outlets use AP copy, unedited, on their Web sites. When I run a search, the NYT and WaPo stories aren't up high, but the AP story (reported ad nauseum) is always there.

--|PW|--

I suspect it is because the... (Below threshold)
Jack:

I suspect it is because the NY Times takes their articles offline after two weeks or so to put on their "subscriber-only" site. I doubt Google catches the subscriber-only pages.

So much for the "paper of record" if you have to pay to see archival articles.

Archived content provides a... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

Archived content provides a revenue stream for NYT. Plain and simple. The paper had issues with Google's cache system a while back because it would grab snapshots of the pages before they could be archived on the NYT site, thus making the NYT archive moot.

What's funny is that many NYT articles run in other publications anyway, and often they put them on their own sites.

Whenever I want to link to ... (Below threshold)

Whenever I want to link to a Times article I first check Google News for the author name (or article title) and often find that it ran in at least one other paper that doesn't have the lame archive policy.

The NYT does provide RSS ("... (Below threshold)

The NYT does provide RSS ("Userland") variants of their articles which, so far as I can tell, don't expire. I always link to that version of the story.

See this post from April for details.




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