NYT-IHT and PW link zaps show need for national digital library system. Lessons for book biz?

imageAfter Publishers Weekly parted ways with a former publisher, it zapped links to all his blog entries.

The same happened to a laid-off PW editor as well as the freelance author of some uppity blog posts on the Kindle, DRM, eBabel and other topics---me. Without any real explanation, PW deleted tens of thousands of words of my e-book-related thoughts from the public Web. Oh, the capricious ways of mainstream media! Maybe corporate politics at work?

And now we have some fellow linking or nonlinking victims who, in this case, have worked at the Herald Tribune, owned by the New York Times. 

In a blog post aptly headlined Reporter to NY Times Publisher: You Erased My Career, an ex-Trib and Times guy tells how the Times’ owners erased Trib links during a merger of the Times and Trib sites.

According to Thomas Crampton (photo), the Times zapped “Every one of the links ever made to IHT stories now points back to the generic NY Times global front page.” He says: “Even when I go to the NY Times global page, I cannot find my articles. In other words, my entire journalistic career at the IHT---from war zones to SARS wards---has been erased.”

Continuing, he writes:

On a personal level I am horrified that I can no longer see all my stories. The IHT logo on this blog used to link to a search of the IHT website for my articles. On a professional level, I am appalled that the NY Times would kill all the links back to the IHT website. Imagine the power of combining two sites with a Google rank of 9 instead of killing one.

Also, imagine all the frustrated potential readers who click on a link to a specific story only to find themselves landing on the generic NY Times global front page.

The only way readers can find the IHT stories is by going to places where they were copied and reposted or Google cache. Is that a good for readers (or shareholders)?

Meanwhile Wikipedia is suffering from the broken links, as a result of the Times’ bungling.

Is the above a preview of the damage that Google and Amazon could do someday to e-books when interbook linking becomes common but profit motives and corporate politics win out?

Get this straight, Washington. Like the Times, these are profit-oriented companies that care far more about their shareholders (I’m a small Google one) than about the preservation of information or permanent paths to it. Citizens ahead of media, please! They’re not always the same, especially in this era of mega-conglomerates.

Related: Tom Crampton’s follow-up, showing how the NYT-IHT link zaps are hardly unique.

About David Rothman (6820 Articles)
David Rothman is the founder and publisher of the TeleRead e-book site and cofounder of He is also author of The Solomon Scandals novel and six tech-related books on topics ranging from the Internet to laptops. Passionate on digital divide issues, he is now pushing for the creation of a national digital library endowment.

8 Comments on NYT-IHT and PW link zaps show need for national digital library system. Lessons for book biz?

  1. David: Thanks for the posting. These issue – as you point out – will only become more important. We are gaining in digital abilities faster than our understanding of the implications. Tom

  2. Wow, that was fast. Keep us up to date, Tom. As a fellow victim of link zapping, I can only cheer you on! Perhaps you can catch up with On the Media.

    Interestingly, after PW zapped tens of thousands of my words, no one in big media gave a squat. I wondered why the NYT didn’t show an interest in my plight. Because somehow it didn’t know? Or because the NYT was just looking ahead?

    Given the low price of storage—not to mention the ad revenue potential—it is just plain stupidity to zap old links.


  3. There are quite a few horror stories in the comments. So many, in fact, that I started compiling them in another posting:

  4. I do have sympathy, I know I would be frustrated if my stories disappeared from the web, but at the same time, there is a certain level of karma about all of this.

    How many times have webloggers chortled at the closure of another newspaper? How many times have webloggers gloated about how we will win over Big Media?

    The thing is, when Big Media is gone, who will we quote? Who will we link? Where will the underlying credibility for our stories be found?

    Isn’t this exactly what webloggers have wanted all along?

  5. Yes, I DO NOT want mainstream media to fail. In particular, I do not want the NYT/IHT to fail. I love those publications!

  6. Tom and Shelley, I emphatically agree with you about Big Media. We need the MSM (with more resources to check up on corporations, politicians and crats than bloggers have) and blogs (to help spread the word and also drive people to the original stories) and libraries (for reliable archiving).

    As I say on my site promoting my newspaper novel:

    Money. That’s the real issue here. I’m not sure what the solution is. Just how much downsizing can newspapers do? And you can’t instantly say good-bye to paper editions in most cases—not when Net-related parts of newspaper contribute so little revenue…

    Do you really think bloggers and the rest will have the same resources as the old media? Yes, small guys broke stories like My Lai. But I’m talking about sustained efforts. I don’t think that foundations like the Sandlers’ can bear the entire burden, and just as with regular newspapers, funders will have to isolate their private interests from the activities of the editors and reporters they’re financing


  7. Yes, in my experience great journalism often requires courageous publishers and great lawyers. The New York Times has both.

  8. Anyone who submits written material to another company, under contract or not, risks the possibility of that material becoming buried by the company and lost to the public if the arrangement someday changes… this isn’t new.

    Smart writers and columnists should therefore set up their own sites and blogs, and arrange for MSM companies or other sources to link to them or duplicate them. At least that way, if the MSM company folds or the contract is over, the material won’t be lost to the world. As David mentioned, the cost of storage is low enough these days… so is the cost of a website or blog.

    Sure, it likely means more work for the writer/columnist… but it would be a small price to pay for making sure your work stays up.

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