Since they’re unlikely to report on the mechanics of some of their own website and journalistic output, I’ll take a moment to highlight it on their behalf.
Reading pages or Linkblogs
Traditionally known as linkblogs back in the old blogosphere days, this sort of web pattern is probably better and more specifically called a “reading page” now. (Even Nieman titles the page “What We’re Reading” and uses
/reading/ in the URL path to the page itself.) Many people still maintain linkblogs or bookmark pages (often on social silos like Pinboard, Pinterest, Twitter, Pocket, Instapaper, et al.), but generally the semantic name there implies articles or pages that were found to be of general interest or that one wanted to keep to read or consume later. On today’s more advanced web, there’s actually more value in naming it a reading page as it indicates a more proactive interest in the bookmarked content–namely having spent the time, effort, and energy to have actually read the thing being bookmarked. This additional indication of having more skin in the game provides a lot of additional value of a read post over a simpler bookmark post in my mind. It’s also part of the reason my website sends and receives read-specific webmentions.
This pattern of providing links of read material is pretty cool for a variety of reasons.
First, if you’re following and reading the Nieman Lab, you’re very likely going to be interested in many of the things that they’re reading, researching, and covering. By providing a reading page they’re giving their readers a trove of useful data to discover articles and material in similar and tangential spaces that the lab may not be able to actively cover or engage in at the time.
By knowing what the Lab is reading, you’re provided with a broader perspective of the things they’re actively interested in. By reading those things yourself, you’ll have increased context into what they’re doing, what those areas look like, and what they are adding to the conversation in their research and work.
Added value to their site
Linkblogging has long been a thing, and, in part, is what a large number of Twitter users are typically doing. In Nieman Lab’s case, they’re just doing it on their own website, which adds tremendous value to it. By smartly hosting it on their own site they’re also guarding against the built value of their read archive disappearing if they were hosted on a social silo (remember Delicious? CiteULike?). Also by keeping it on their site, it has more long-tail value than if it were to all disappear into the new-content-wins attention machine that Twitter has become.
Of course I’d personally find it a lot more beneficial if they provided or advertised a linkblog feed for their reading page. Sadly they don’t. However, if you’re as interested as I am, you’ll dig under the hood a bit to discover that Nieman Lab’s site is built on WordPress and they’re using that page likely with a category, tag, or other taxonomy. So with a short bit of intuitive guessing about how WordPress is structured, we happily discover there is a feed of their reads at https://www.niemanlab.org/reading/feed/. (I suspect this feed exists as a design choice by WordPress than by the design or will of the Nieman Lab.) If you prefer a faster, one button subscribe option:
If Nieman would like their own universal follow button like this, take a peek at what SubToMe has to offer on this front.
Value to research
By accumulating a trove of links and summaries, which they’re hopefully keeping, they’re creating a huge relevant database for future research on the topics in which they have interest. The small pieces that may not make sense today may potentially be woven into future narratives and pieces of research later, but this sort of thing is vastly harder to do without reading and making note of it. In a sense, they’re creating a corporate or research lab-based commonplace book for their own use.
While I’ve seen many people (generally individuals and not magazines, companies, or other bigger outlets) regularly publish newsletters or weekly posts on what they’ve found on the web that is interesting, I haven’t seen as many who publish specific pages or archives of what they’re reading. Even fewer provide RSS or other feeds of this content.
The IndieWeb wiki read page has some useful and interesting examples of this behavior, but they’re almost all individuals.
One other example I can think of in the journalism space, mostly because it’s getting to that end-of-the-year recap time is Bloomberg’s Jealousy List, which this year incidentally has some fun little drolleries that move as you scroll the page. This subset of reading lists is interesting as a group of articles Bloomberg wished they’d written and published themselves. This may indicate that they’re keeping a reading list internally, but just not publishing it regularly like Nieman is.
I can’t help thinking if Nieman Lab’s OpenFuego bot is a part of their workflow in creating their reading page as well?
Are you aware of other people or organizations publishing lists of what they’re actively reading online? Do they provide feeds? How can we make this feature more prevalent on the open web?