After more than a year in private and limited beta, NYTimes.com has opened its personalized My Times service to all of the site’s registered users — albeit still in beta. The private beta started in April 2006 when the site last did a major design overhaul, providing a mix of a news feed reader, modules, participation by a small number of journalists, staff suggestions, along with a few widgets.
The version that went public this week bears the outlines of the version I first used then but it has improved considerably with input from “thousands” of beta users. There still aren’t many widgets but what has been added takes advantage of NYTimes.com’s strengths — particularly the NYT Crossword widget that puts the famed puzzle in easy reach. The widget makes it possible to do the crossword in situ, dangerous for those on a deadline. (An ad playing off a subscription to the premium crossword service is at the bottom of the widget.) The number of NYT journalists providing suggestions is roughly the same. One handy change — the ability to add pages so you can group items or avoid having one long page.
One aspect remains the same: My Times is not designed to take the place of the edited NYTimes.com front page. Instead, it literally is a service designed to keep people’s attention, making the site useful beyond its own news and stickier in the process. With traffic metrics changing to favor time spent, look for more efforts like this from the Times and others. Release.
Update: Meanwhile, the NYT’s RSS policy is catching some flack at the Freakonomics blog, now operated in partner ships with the site. Turns out Freakonomics has switched its former full-feed policy to match NYTimes.com’s policy of only offering excerpts, thus honking off those users who resent having to click on a link and those who want to read offline . Stephen Dubner, co-auther of the book and blog, took a stab at explaining the economics of RSS: “Well, we are still giving away our content for free. It