NYTimes.com is today retiring its Times File service. Times File is a tool that allows you to save articles into an online library for later reading. You’re not restricted to NYTimes.com content either — you can save any URL to Times File.
An email communication to Times File users states that,
as of Dec. 22, 2008, we are removing the ability to save articles to Times File from NYTimes.com pages, and on Jan. 21, 2009, we are removing Times File from the site entirely.
The email goes on to note the proliferation of social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Digg which are available through the NYTimes.com Share tools, and which in effect duplicate the functionality of Times File.
Is this decision to divert resources from Times File to other areas of the site an economic one? How much maintenance, hardware, capacity or bandwidth could Times File have possibly used? I’d like to see some statistic for the usage of Times File — perhaps it’s being turned off through lack of take-up. This seems unlikely, as they only recently released their Community API and surely this service could have been bound in and exploited through that?
Reading further into the email, it becomes clear that the service was provided by a third party, LookSmart (watch out, they have a Flash intro) — a publicly traded company. LookSmart probably costs money, and a fair chunk of it. If other social bookmarking sites are available for free then why not use them? I think it’s a smart move from NYTimes.com — outsource those things that don’t contribute to making your offering unique.
Another slant on this is that NYTimes.com’s recent manoeuvres towards the forefront of online journalism and publicly available data would soon have rendered this service inadequate and underwhelming. Interestingly, they’ve opted to go with Furl if you decide you want to export your currently stored Times file data, rather than either of the two sites they cite as contributing towards the redundancy of Times File: Delicious and Digg. I wonder what business decisions were involved there?