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Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that will provide links to stories that relate to its own. This goes beyond columnists linking to various articles around the Web when they apply to a topic and represents an evolutionary step for online newspapers. and other newspaper Web sites under WPNI will provide automated links on the left side of article pages that will take readers to related sources all over the Web (this will involve opening new windows rather than "whisking" users away from WPNI sites). This means that it will send readers in some cases to competitors’ sites — which is largely the reason that it hasn’t been tried by a major publisher in the roughly 10-year history of online news, until only recently (The New York Times announced something similar a few weeks ago, which will involve a branded RSS reader that will allow users to set up feeds of various news sources).

From this week’s Times article:

Online media outlets like Slate or Salon prominently feature their links to other sites and some, particularly blogs, are built around the strength of their links. But newspapers have been reluctant to direct readers outside their own gates. These deals with Inform are but one indication that newspapers may be reconsidering long-held beliefs about how to compete, and cooperate, with other publishers.

"Five years ago, everybody said you have to keep readers on your site, with no links out to other sites," said Caroline H. Little, chief executive and publisher of Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive, the online division of the Washington Post Company. "But ultimately, people will go where they want to go."

Indeed, these deals signal a changing attitude that linking users to other sources helps readers in ways that will boost a site’s utility and repeat traffic — despite the fact that it drives traffic to competitors in the short run. Such is the only way to compete with the comprehensiveness and utility of Google News and Yahoo! News, as this article points out, and as we recommended heavily in our recently published newspaper special report (summarized here and here).

From the article:

"This lets us be a search engine," said Kelly Dyer Fry, director of multimedia for Opubco Communications Group, which publishes the Oklahoman and its Web site, "We look at it like we just hired 30,000 journalists, because now we can give you our story and what the rest of the world is saying about it."

The move made by these papers is not a result of cooperation across the industry as it is a counterattack by publishers against Google and Yahoo, which have stolen readers and advertisers from newspapers in recent years, both with their search engines and their own news aggregation services.

This functionality will be brought via partnership with online news aggregator Inform whose new service was launched Monday. Partnering with online players to bring online expertise and robust search functionality to the table is also something we loudly advocate in our recent newspaper report, so we’re glad to see this experimentation. Expect more.

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