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April 1, 2011, 2 p.m.

“Trimming the Times”: The Atlantic Wire’s new feature wants you to make the most of your 20 clicks

Add another entry into the growing group of New York Times meter-beating strategies: The Atlantic Wire is now providing a daily summary of the best content in the paper. “Now that the New York Times pay wall is live, you only get 20 free clicks a month,” Adam Martin notes in his introduction to the new feature. “For those worried about hitting their limit, we’re taking a look through the paper each morning to find the stories that can make your clicks count.”

“Trimming the Times” isn’t — per its framing, at least — about gaming the Times’ meter, per se; it’s about helping readers navigate stories within an ecosystem that, from the payment perspective, punishes aimless exploration. The inaugural edition of the feature is 400 words and change, with short graphs pointing to stories on the NYT’s front page and its various sections: Global, U.S., Business, Technology, Health, Sports, Opinion, and Arts.

So, essentially, The Atlantic Wire is curating and then summarizing the information the Times has curated and then summarized. Meta!

Here’s how Trimming sums up today’s front page:

Leading today’s paper: A report on the fallout of all those defections on the Libyan government, news that the U.S. will likely not arm the rebels there, and a House of Representatives committee is shocked, shocked! at the high salaries of officials at government-backed lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Our top pick for today: Mad Men is saved!

First, it has to be said, Trimming’s wise selection of Don Draper’s Deliverance as the day’s top story demonstrates the validity of its editorial judgment. It also, however, suggests Trimming’s emphasis on curation (service!) over pure aggregation (menace?) — think Today’s Papers, with only one Paper. Introductions of stories with notes like “a worthwhile report,” “you’ll want to read how,” “we’re fascinated by,” and the like create an editorial sensibility that makes the feature feel less like a parasitic repurposing of NYT content and more like a respectful tribute to it.

Anyway, Trimming’s a neat idea — a reminder of the editorial and business opportunities that a paywall at one organization can represent for its fellows, whether foe or friend. It also suggests the cross-platform layering of editorial content that’s increasingly defining the news space: single stories spread across outlets, their look and their length — though not necessarily their core information — changing in the stretch. The value of this kind of meta-curated feature is, it’s worth noting, largely independent of the Times’ paywall. Though the meter thing makes for a nice hook — and though it adds a nicely service-y (and cheeky) element to Trimming as a feature — a cogent, curated summary of the best content in the nation’s paper of record is a useful thing as a general rule, meter or no.

Still, though, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Times’ monthly meter affects monthly traffic patterns for The Atlantic Wire’s newest feature. Today being the first of the month, users’ article-view meters, as of early this morning, have been rolled back to zero. Human nature being what it is, the budgeting mindset — the voice of reason that reminds you to use your clicks wisely throughout the month — probably won’t kick in until at least Article 10 or 15 (or, more realistically, 19). But Trimming wants to be the superego to your web-wandering Id. “It’s the first of the month so your clicks have reset,” Martin acknowledges. But: “You still must budget.”

Image by James Bowe used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     April 1, 2011, 2 p.m.
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