Chart of the day: The NYT and the econoblogosphere

May 24, 2010
Jeff Bercovici finds a new study which shows just how important the NYT's business section is to its online franchise. Here's the chart:

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Jeff Bercovici finds a new study which shows just how important the NYT’s business section is to its online franchise. Here’s the chart:


Jeff notes that the WSJ is nowhere to be seen on the list of the most linked-to websites, despite the fact that it has twice the print circulation of the NYT:

PEJ’s study suggests that the links that would have gone to WSJ and FT in the absence of pay walls have been going to the Times instead. The content on most often linked to by bloggers is business and economic news, which accounts for 29% of linked stories — as much as the next two areas (politics/national news and technology) combined. Surely in an all-free online universe, many if not most of those links would go to financial publications instead of to a general-interest paper.

The NYT can claim only some of the credit for its dominance of the business blogosphere: this was a battle that the WSJ and FT surrendered early on, ceding the field to the Gray Lady. But now that the NYT has this enviable position, one would think that it would be trying to capitalize on it as much as possible, rather than spending an inordinate amount of management time and Carlos Slim’s money putting together a paywall which risks sending all that high-value traffic elsewhere. (Like, for instance.)

What the NYT should be doing is reiterating loudly and as often as possible that side doors will be completely free: any blogger linking to a NYT story can know that her readers will see that story, and not barge straight into the firewall. If there has to be a paywall, then it should be put up behind the homepage, and should act more as a navigation fee than as an FT-style meter. (I hate the FT meter, despite the fact that I have a full subscription there, because when I follow a link to from Twitter on my iPhone, I run into the firewall. The FT should just automatically give a pass to all readers coming from Twitter, especially if they’re using mobile devices.)

Unfortunately, the the NYT has been backtracking on its early statements about keeping the side doors open. And if it closes them, FT-style, then it might well lose a very large chunk of its most valuable readers: the people who read business and finance blogs and who follow links from those blogs to The NYT has some good business coverage, but it hasn’t got its present dominance of the econoblogosphere through merit alone: the lack of a paywall has been much more important. It’ll be very interesting to see how willing the NYT is to throw all that away, in the service of a paywall plan which will likely not make it any money at all.

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