. . . Friday February 18, 2005

Read All About It

In the last few months, we’ve seen a dramatic volume rise when it comes to bloggers who insist that big media has no interest in or understanding of the massive journalistic shift that is taking place on the web.

Well, it turns out that one old gray lady might be paying pretty close attention after all.

The New York Times company has announced plans to acquire About.com for about $410 million.

Now About.com is not exactly the Wild West of blog publishing. But it is a large group of citizen publishers who attract millions of readers monthly.

This could be about nothing more than getting a few million extra page views a month, but I doubt it. What if the NYT plans to use About.com to build their own massive citizen journalist project, connected to (but still distinct from) their “pro” brands such as the the Times and the Boston Globe?

Here’s what they should do: Open up About.com to become a place where tens of thousands (not just 425) people become bloggers and/or guides on different topics. Pipe in links to their own stories wherever appropriate. Link to the best postings of the day from the “pro” brands (help to create stars who will bring in viewers and ad dough).

The NYT already has RSS versions of their content going out. Now they should use the About.com platform along with their existing brands to serve up an RSS aggregator. Why cede the news aggregation business to search engines, portals and start-ups? In the web-based aggregator, the NYT can push their own content, but not limit readers to their brands. The system must be open.

No you’re a one stop shop. You’ve got your branded content. You’ve got your expert guides. You’ve got your collection citizen journalists. And you’ve got your portal to news and opinion throughout the web.

You’ve also got the data on the back-end. You know what kind of news your customers are searching for and subscribing to and you’ve also got a clear look at what is a self-filtering talent pool. Your existing readers will let you know who is worth bumping up (or over) to the big brands.

And then a year from now everyone looks around and says, yes, of course. Why wouldn’t the strongest brand in journalism have ultimatelty become the portal to all news on the web?

Then again, maybe they just wanted the extra page views…

Concentration is important!