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NYTimes’s Personalized Service “My Times” Debuts In Limited Beta

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One of the linchpins of the new design is slipping into place finally … personalization feature My Times is now in limited beta for 5,000 registered users who showed early interest (Some screenshots here). Plans call for adding subscribers in the same small batches while the shake-down cruise continues. Unlike TimesSelect, which is subscription-only, My Times eventually will be open to all registered users.
In some respects, it’s a template personalized news page with the features we expect from any major site — drill-down to specific areas, add RSS feeds, move modules around, select from suggested news sources, etc. Users can even add widgets although there aren’t many and there’s no visible way to make your own.
But the NYT is also playing its ace card: beyond-the-headlines expertise from its own journalists. A small number of staffers (26 at last count) have set up their own pages and are sharing their “sources” with other MyTimes users, who can bookmark and keep track of “My Journalists’ Pages.” This is in keeping with the over-the-top tagline: “My Times: Where the best minds in journalism help you edit the Web.” Users also can add the staffer sources to their own page. This doesn’t seem to work both ways. I’m told these are just a sample of the personalized staff pages; more will be added.
First thoughts: Smart idea to start in very limited fashion. It’s sluggish right now and still very much a work in progress. Once the logistics are settled, integrating My Times with TimesSelect would be valuable. It also will be interesting to see if they take this a step further and make non-journalists pages shareable. It’s not a customized home page, though — the NYT isn’t relinquishing the role of front-page editor to the user.

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