HOME
          
LATEST STORY
At Datalore, data plus storytelling means empathy, humor, and games
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Aug. 22, 2011, 2:30 p.m.

The NYT’s new education site with WNYC will be collaborative, experimental…and meter-free

Visits to SchoolBook won’t count against the Times’ paywall, in part because the site aims to reach out to NYC students and parents.

This morning, The New York Times and WNYC announced a new collaboration: SchoolBook, a site for news, data, and conversation about New York City schools. Slated to launch September 7, the site will feature not only reporting from Times and WNYC education reporters, but also aggregated content from the local school-info resources GothamSchools and Inside Schools — an effort that will amount to, a press release promises, “customized pages for each of the 1,700 pubic schools and 800 private schools in the city.”

It’s a fascinating collaboration. And one of the more intriguing elements of SchoolBook is the fact that access to it won’t count against users’ monthly digital article tallies. Which is a rare move for a subscription strategy that, while porous and relatively lenient, encompasses almost every piece of content the Times produces. (DealBook and the Times’ Learning Network blog are also exempted from the meter.)

In an interview earlier this afternoon, I spoke with Jodi Rudoren, the Times’ education editor, to learn more about the thinking behind the free.

Rudoren laid out five core reasons why the Times decided to give SchoolBook a rare meter exemption:

  • The site exists in partnership with WNYC. “With membership for them, and subscription for us,” things get complicated, Rudoren says.
  • SchoolBook will be “truly a two-way site.” Much of the site’s content won’t be articles that are written by a New York Times or a WNYC author: A lot of its content will, it is hoped, come from SchoolBook’s community of readers. In that sense, Rudoren says, the site’s content, on a structural level, simply doesn’t work well with a digital subscription model. There’s also the fact that much of that content won’t necessarily consist of traditional articles or even blog posts; the team will be experimenting with narrative as much as with collaboration and conversation.
  • Much of the site’s content will be data-driven. There, as well, there’s a structural disconnect between product and payment: Perusing data, Rudoren points out, doesn’t necessarily compute with subscription-model tabulations.
  • SchoolBook, with its focus on collaboration and its emphasis on community aggregation, is a big experiment — both for the Times and for WNYC. “This is totally new,” Rudoren says. And while it’s a product, it’s also trying to be a community. Charging for access, to an extent, violates the spirit of both.
  • There’s an element of community outreach to the site, more than there is to a typical piece of Times content. “The public school population in New York City is by and large poorer,” Rudoren notes. She and her colleagues and collaborators want to reach the people most directly affected by the schools — the kids, their parents — freely, in every sense, without concern that the meter might turn potential readers and contributors away. At least, and especially, at the outset, the team wants to do community outreach in a “pure, everyone-can-participate sort of way.”

Those reasons may seem straightforward and, altogether, pretty obvious; that doesn’t mean, though, that they weren’t the subject of internal debate at the Times. The paper, after all, “is serious about its digital subscription model,” Rudoren points out. It has to be vigilant about the kind of content it exempts from its meter. But SchoolBook, at least to start, needed to be free, Rudoren says. “It was fairly critical to the parameters of the project.”

POSTED     Aug. 22, 2011, 2:30 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
At Datalore, data plus storytelling means empathy, humor, and games
At the MIT Media Lab, teams of designers, developers and storytellers pulled stories from eight different data sets.
Tied up at home? Have some Nieman Lab #BlizzardReads
Many of our readers on the East Coast are cooped up in their homes. To rescue them from boredom, here are a few recent Nieman Lab stories you may have missed.
U.S. journalists, the clock is ticking: January 31 is the deadline to apply for a Nieman Fellowship
It’s a chance to spend a year at Harvard and change the shape of your career.
What to read next
2588
tweets
Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
The team that runs the Times’ Twitter accounts looked back on what they learned — what worked, what didn’t — from running @NYTimes in 2014.
728From explainers to sounds that make you go “Whoa!”: The 4 types of audio that people share
How can public radio make audio that breaks big on social media? A NPR experiment identified what makes a piece of audio go viral.
705Q&A: Amy O’Leary on eight years of navigating digital culture change at The New York Times
“In 2007, as digital people, we were expected to be 100 percent deferent to all traditional processes. We weren’t to bother reporters or encourage them to operate differently at all, because what they were doing was the very core of our journalism.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Facebook
Byliner
Franklin Center
Fwix
The Boston Globe
Al Jazeera
Gotham Gazette
The Seattle Times
Daily Mail
SeeClickFix
The New York Times
BuzzFeed