Saturday, August 05, 2006

How to avoid (or repair) expired NY Times links

Old NY Times links don't die. They don't fade away. They don't even break. They just "expire," becoming solicitations to access the article for "free" if you have Times Select and haven't accessed more than 100 articles that month. (And if you don't have Times Select, you're invited to search for the article in the archives and purchase it.) You know, that familiar "screen of death" shown here. Sigh.

I just found out that this was happening to all the Times links (but no other major newspapers) on my old posts (not that old, either -- they expire after a week). This really bothered me. It sort of undermines the whole idea of a hyperlinked blog posting when direct access to the story it references is denied. I have no interest in becoming a marketing arm of the New York Times, helping them hustle Times Select memberships or paid archive downloads.

Before starting to scream at the Times (again), I figured I better check some other blogs -- maybe it was just me. But, as it turned out, lots of blogs have the same problem, some of them pretty big. For example, check out this recent post on AMERICAblog . Click on the first link, which is to the Times. You’ll get the “screen of death.” Click on the second link, which is to the Post. No problem. The article comes right up.

But not all blogs have this problem. On some, the Times link works just fine -- for example, this Althouse post about “boomer slackers.” Try it. Click on the link. It opens right up. What’s going on? Does Ann Althouse have some special pass?

Well, no. Actually, it was looking at the code for her link that pointed me in the right direction. Take a look. You’ll find it’s a longer-than-usual URL, and it has “RSS” at the very end. That’s when I realized there must be a way to get a websafe link from the Times RSS feed. But how?

A quick Google search for “NY Times expired link RSS” took me right here -- to “The New York Times Link Generator, presented by reddit.” You’ll find an explanation of how they worked with the Times to generate websafe links that would identify the link as coming from a blog and preventing it from expiring. (It works with all the regular Times news content -- not columnists, etc. that are behind the Times Select firewall in the first place.)

There’s a text box where you can paste in the NY Times URL you want to use, and the converter will give you a new, websafe URL you can paste into your blog. (Or use it to convert the URL and read the story behind another blog's expired link.) Bookmark it and you’ll be all set -- if you even want to bother.

I’m not sure I do. Oh, I’ll try to go back and fix the old links. But after that, I’m not sure I want to bother with the extra step that no other newspaper forces me to take. It’s not as if there aren’t any others.

Note to New York Times: You seem willing to let people link to your stories. So why force them to go through all these contortions just to put up a link that won’t expire? Way to shoot yourself in the foot, (again).

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