MyTimes: The Final Capitulation, and It’s Beautiful
There’s been, amongst the High Geeknocracy, an almost conspiratorial indifference about the New York Times’ My Times feature, which lets users create a personalized start page.
The service launched on Friday, Aug. 24. As of 11 p.m. on the 26th, there were precisely two (2!) results for “My Times” under Google News. (By contrast, “Necco wafers” turned up eight Google news stories.)
Even the blogpack has been fairly tame. If there is a theme among the more influential media blogs, it’s that the Times is coming to the remix party late, that it is wan, weak and wanting compared to Netvibes, Pageflakes, Yahoo, and Google’s roll-your-own Web tools. The Times is so old school!
I think they’re missing a big point: The deployment of MyTimes is a vivid demonstration of enlightened MSM capitulation to new media ecology. It’s a stirring, gorgeous fluttering of the white flag, a magnificent genuflection on bloody knees. I think that next month at this time I will still be able to stand by my judgment here: MyTimes marks an historic moment in the print-to-digital transformation.
The question is not whether the Gray Gal’s RSS-and-widget platform is better than the others. That’s immaterial. So are the Times’ business goals for deploying the new feature.
The significant thing is this: The keepers of one of the most sturdy, well-maintained walled gardens on the Web have mown the boxwoods flat and invited the woolly crowd to have a picnic.
MyTimes is a tacit admission that users are now free to do with content whatever they wish–and the Times is willing to play host, offer drinks and hope nobody gets hurt. The Times understands that the users now officially control the asylum.
MyTimes not only permits but actively encourages users to add all sorts of not-authorized-by-the-Times content to their page. When MyTimes first appeared on my screen, I was startled to see that the main news module front and center was not the main NYT news feed, but. . . Yahoo News. The photo feature? Not Times photojournalism, but the random eyedrops of Flickr.
Sure, the page does come pre-loaded with a lot of NYTimes stuff, but it’s possible to create a page that’s entirely free of New York Times content. In fact I did this just for sport–yanked in modules from the Wall Street Journal, Salon, Instapundit, even the insufferable Daily Kos. Out with Times Technology! David Carr be gone! Adam Nagourney, get outta town! TechDirt, New Scientist, Time magazine. . .step right up! I even added this very blog, just to make sure I could. (It’s easy: Just type in the url and the service fetches the RSS feed.)
Not a digit of Times content was left, except for a logo on top and a dim row of links at the bottom of the page. So powerless had the Times become that even when I added The Drudge Report module the site was unable to muster the energy to crash my hard drive.
I am quoting someone here, and I’m sorry I forget who it is: The task used to be getting the people to the content. Now the task is getting the content to the people.
The Times has shown it understands this, that it believes there is some economic value–or perhaps simple inevitability–in playing host to people’s customized information experiences. If they choose Times content, fine. If they don’t, well, that’s fine too. We’ll figure out how to pay the light bill.
My hope is that the rest of the players in big media–many of whom are still trying to fortify the walls of their gardens, in vain attempt to shield “their” readers from the corruptions outside–will now finally understand the new media deal too.
I invite all print-born news media leaders wringing their hands over the future to go to MyTimes, kill out all the New York Times content, and fill their page with whatever they want to. Add your own stuff, go ahead. Add your kid’s blog. Maybe even yours, if you have one.
Then, sit back, look at your screen, and ask yourself this: Now what?