NYTimes.com’s Missing The Search Boat?

Adam Penenberg, an assistant professor at NYU’s J-school, famous for unmasking serial fabricator Stephen Glass of The New Republic, has written an alarmist story about how NYTimes.com’s stories are not being indexed properly by Google and other search engines. He argues that NYT’s registration and paid archives policy is damaging it in the longer term. He goes on to say: “Unless Google and the Times work on their relationship, there may be a day when The New York Times doesn’t show up at all on the Net’s most popular search engine. Ultimately, this could be a direct threat to the Times’ legacy.”

Going from there, he says that it’s no surprise that Times management has no plans to completely open up its archive…NYTD earns most of its money from a pre-existing agreement with Lexis-Nexis, which brings in more than $20 million a year. It simply can’t charge Lexis-Nexis tens of millions of dollars while giving away the same content free over the Web.

Now look beyond this sky-is-falling view and think about the opportunity for search engines to become gateways to premium content, something John Battelle dissects in his post reacting to this story: “As the search giants become more and more media companies, they must develop subscription services, and because users won’t want to pay for something they already believe is free (searching) search engines will have to figure out a way to become middlemen to paid content. After all, they own distribution, so they should become…distributors. Were they to execute this service in a scaled and elegant fashion, it might be viewed as a benefit – in many cases, subscribers will get more content for less than they were paying in the past (that’s the benefit of volume).”

But I doubt that MSN, Yahoo or Google are the only ones who could be that gateway. Similar alternatives already exits..it is a matter of when they would become visible enough to be considered as part of that triumvirate. One option is HighBeam, which is a low-priced “research engine” sitting in between Googles of the world and Lexis-Nexis. It has NYT and WSJ, and has an open-Web search powered by Fast, which is owned by Overture owned by Yahoo.

Others open-Web news aggregators like Google News and Topix and others are trying it as well.

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