New York Times 2.0

Business 2.0 (they were 2.0 before everything became 2.0) has a great piece on the moves the New York Times is making to take advantage of digital media and web 2.0. It was penned by my friend John Heilemann who is doing a damn good job profiling some of the most interesting characters in the web world. In this piece he talks to Martin Nisenholtz about how far the Times has come in a fairly short period of time and the moves they are making to remain at the top of the online news space.

I am particularly interested in this story because my firm Flatiron Partners was an investor in the New York Times Digital and my partner Jerry Colonna was on Martin’s board for several years before we sold our interest back to The New York Times Company. Since starting Union Square Ventures, we have partnered with The New York Times on our investment in Indeed and we are always looking for other opportunities to work with them.

I am particularly interested in seeing My Times, which is apparently in private beta (how come I never got an invite?). This is how John describes My Times (apparently he did get an invite):

the free service lets you customize your own news homepage, adding
feeds from third-party blogs and news sources in addition to slicing
and dicing Times content. But what sets it apart from other user-customized online news sites is that it includes access to pages maintained by
Times
journalists – about two dozen of them at the moment, including such
A-listers as Frank Rich, John Markoff, and David Carr-that contain
their own bookmarks and feeds.

Now that’s a cool idea. I’d subscribe to a feed of Frank Rich, John Markoff, and David Carr’s bookmarks for sure.

But the most interesting thing in the story is the gap between the new stuff that the Times is developing and the reading habits of their user base. Here are some quotes from the story that I found particularly interesting on that subject:

On the Most Popular page, while the Most E-Mailed feature is, as he
puts it, "the big kahuna, a significant driver of interest," Most
Blogged and Most Searched are catching on more slowly. Tagging hasn’t
caught on at all.

RSS newsfeeds, which the Times adopted early, are still "a niche,"
Nisenholtz says. (In June, RSS feeds generated 12.2 million pageviews
for the site out of a U.S. total of nearly 295 million.) "RSS is still
very techie," he says. "Most people outside the business are totally
unaware of it."

"We touch 25 or 26 million people a month," he says, "and a very
minimal number of them are technologically savvy…. Our median age
online is 44 or 45 years old. So we have to find ways to bring people
into the loop who don’t know what a tag cloud is."

Well they’ve got one reader who knows what a tag cloud is right here and I am eager to try out some of this new stuff. I just hope they don’t fall into the temptation to put it into Times Select, the one part of the Times strategy that makes no sense to me.