In an insert to readers May 2, the New York Times announced new upcoming features to nytimes.com. One was a personalization feature called "My Times," which will allow readers to create a personalized homepage, organize the stories and blogs they read, including those from outside sources.
The twist is that they will present "models" based on the homepages of their writers and editors, in order to show people how this can be useful. While there's no way to know if this will catch on, or if modeling on other people's expertise is the way to go, it is admirable that the Times is doing what many Web 2.0 companies refuse to do, which is spell it out for regular people how this can be useful to them. This will be an interesting test of news personalization at a very high level, as NYTimes.com is consistently one of the top American news sources, and if they execute this correctly it could cement their position even further.
This also goes to show that most web 2.0 companies are at risk of being overtaken by larger players who wait for them to test out various features, and then co-opt them for their own use, combining the tech ideas with their own knowledge of their readership. Note that NYTimes.com did not have to make a major purchase of technology to implement these features.
TechCrunch has finally grown a pair and thrown a major web 2.0 property under the bus. In the process he has set up a delicious meta-bash of his own currently foundering project.
In today's post, entitled "Squidoo: Seth Godin's Purple Albatross", Mr. Arrington states the obvious that we mentioned weeks ago– Squidoo's traffic is flat, its concept is flawed, and its future is dim. Perhaps TechCrunch has been feeling the heat of being too positive on Web 2.0 (which as a general concept has petered out in a major way as 2006 marches on), and went for the easiest high-profile target.
But in doing so, he sets himself up for a righteous slap back which Godin probably does not have the balls to deliver except in a roundabout, professional marketer way. The simple fact of the matter is that Edgeio has similar problems– problematic concept, parabolic traffic, sub-par execution etc. The biggest difference between Edgeio and Squidoo is that Squidoo executes its shaky concept in a very mediocre way, while Edgeio executes its far better concept poorly.
While TechCrunch postulates that Godin will lose his hard-earned credibility, this goes double for TechCrunch. How can you critique other people's ideas when your own is gasping for air? How can you claim mental ownership of Web 2.0 ideas when on the execution side, you can clearly be shown to not have a handle on things? As a former (current?) VC, Arrington knows you're only as good as your last deal… perhaps TechCrunch (and its newfound ability to bash as well as praise) is the true business, but co-ownership of Edgeio is an albatross of a different color.
Jason Levine points out that Sphere is even more splog-infested then Technorati. Plus even the non-splog results are very weak. No point in ever going back to Sphere, if this is the best they can do at launch then there is no reason to think it can rebound. The only good thing is that according to Om Malik (who was "impressed" with Sphere) they only spent $200k on their so far grade-Z search product.