The Cutline

The New York Times launches its first Tumblr blog

Joe Pompeo
The Cutline

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More than eight months after media reporters first stumbled upon a URL that the New York Times had quietly registered with Tumblr, the paper of record has finally launched its inaugural editorial product on the influential blogging platform.

T on Tumblr, which went live Monday morning, will function as a visual repository for T: The New York Times Style Magazine, as well as a supplement to the magazine's online home.

"It's a great way of bringing to the surface a lot of these great visuals that for any reason may have been overlooked," Horacio Silva, T's online director, told The Cutline. "We take a very curatorial approach to the editorial decisions we make. I think that aspect lends itself perfectly to Tumblr."

Silva noted that T goes to press only 15 times a year, in concentrated seasonal bursts, which tends to have a burying effect on the mass of photographic content it spits out. His hope is that Tumblr's premium on community-building and re-blogging will help those images travel farther and live longer than they do from T's daily website. "Because of the sheer number" of images in the magazine, "it is possible to overlook some," he said. "This is a way to allow users to engage with and share that content."

T on Tumblr debuts just one week after the Times implemented a metered pay system that charges readers for online content (after 20 articles per month), but which also guarantees that all referrals from social media and blogging sites, such as Tumblr, will remain free. The new platform also puts the Grey Lady on more even footing with the plethora of news outlets that have already adopted Tumblr in the past year, even if the Times is a bit late to the party.

There are now more than 160 such media organizations--ranging from magazines and newspapers, to digital operations, to TV and radio shows--engaging their readers through Tumblr, an intuitive self-publishing platform that launched in 2007. These dozens of publishers make up a healthy portion of the site's 67 million unique monthly visitors and 5.3 billion monthly page views, said Mark Coatney, Tumblr's resident media liaison.

The use cases vary: Some publications' Tumblrs tend to replicate their respective RSS and Twitter feeds, keeping readers up to date on content as it hits the web. Others are more idiosyncratic, pointing readers to third-party pieces their editors find interesting or fun. Others feature original content that cannot be found elsewhere online or in print, sometimes divided by subject matter across multiple Tumblrs.

The Times, in any case, is a welcome addition to the growing roster.

"We're really excited about having them," said Coatney, whose job is to help media outlets devise Tumblr strategies. "The Times is a global brand, the paper of record." It's also one of the top five sources that Tumblr users link to on any given week, he added. "It's something everyone on Tumblr already reads and is paying attention to. So it's great for us if they're really going to start to integrating with that community."

But why did it take the Times so much longer to integrate than most of its peers?

"It's been a long period of thinking and brainstorming," said Lexi Mainland, one of two social media editors at the Times. "We've just been sort of listening and watching and waiting for the best idea. Being first is great with breaking news, but it's not always best to be first until you know exactly what you wanna do."

The idea to do a Tumblr for T "just bubbled to the surface" more quickly than other propositions that were floating around the newsroom, said Mainland. It doesn't hurt, of course, that Tumblr has a highly-active fashion community. When Vogue's Tumblr launched earlier this year, said Coatney, it racked up more than 1,000 followers in its first day.

A number of other Times Tumblrs are also in the works, including one that would aggregate all of the paper's New York-centric feature reporting across various desks--culture, metro, real estate, dining and style. "That would be a really great opportunity for us," said Mainland. "We're still playing around with it in terms of design."

On the other hand, "One of the things we're paying the most attention to is, 'How can we do really well in the Tumblr space and make it an organic part of our work flow?', " said Mainland.

To that effect, maintaining T on Tumblr will be "something I add to my morning responsibilities," said Silva. "One thing I don't want it to be is a glorified RSS feed. I don't ever want the process to be automated."

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