At the ‘Times,’ the future of blogs is uncertain: Some shuttered, some dormant, all under review

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Media Decoder's last update: April 14. ()
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The New York Times is deciding what to do with its dozens of blogs.

Sources tell Capital that a review of the blogs is underway ahead of the paper's planned web relaunch later this year.

At least one of them, the environmental blog, has already been killed. Another, Media Decoder, hasn't posted any content since April 14.

For the time being, "they've moved all media coverage over to an article format," according to a source familiar with the situation, who added: "I think it's part of a broader effort to prune the blogs and push everything into our own new CMS, called Scoop. Better for the coming redesign that the paper has previewed."

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Asked about the status of Media Decoder, which had become a topic of interest among media wonks on Twitter these past few days, a Times spokesperson said the blog is "dormant, not dead." Media editor Bruce Headlam was out of the office today and didn't immediately respond to emails.

Last month, the Times previewed a major overhaul of nytimes.com that has the site veering into a more tablet-friendly format.

UPDATE, 5:32 PM: Headlam got back to me with some color on Media Decoder:

From my perspective, the issue the Times is dealing with is discoverability: it's a huge site and finding material can be a problem. Media Decoder was a homemade production of the media desk -- for a long time it didn't have its own producer -- that allowed us to break a lot of news quickly. Since a lot of that news found its way into the paper, we often had two versions of the same story and that was confusing for readers (and search engines).

So the news we broke on Decoder will now go to the Media homepage (and Media now has its own tab on the Times navigation bar, which also helps). I really fought losing the blog format -- it was quick, easy and great for imbedding video -- but in truth we can do a lot of things on the Media page we couldn't do on the blog.

And we're certainly not retiring the Decoder name: we're still going to use it for bloggier items like Carr riffs or interactive features, and we have a few new uses in mind. Part of this is just ego: I made the name up and want to keep it going. (I don't mean that to sound sad, like we're one of those bands that keep touring under its famous name even though the only original member left is the bass player.)

I'd make one more point. Decoder allowed writers and editors to loosen up a little, to write items and headlines with a little more verve and humor and to react quickly to news. We all want that spirit to continue on the Media page, even though the articles are produced differently. I really don't know the eventual fate for other blogs at the Times but I know my writers and editors liked the pace and the feel of the blog and that's not going to change just because we've moved away from Wordpress.