At the end of March 2016, the Times (of London) revamped its website (thetimes.co.uk). At the same time, they seem to have casually ditched most of their RSS feeds, without even bothering to update their ‘feed index’ page.
In early April, I started to notice that my RSS reader hadn’t shown me any Times articles for a while. That was when I first came to suspect something was wrong. I’m a paid subscriber, yet I don’t recall being informed in advance. Eventually I contacted Customer Services, and they confirmed “The RSS feeds have been taken from the website”.
It’s now early July 2016 and their ‘feed index’ page still has no mention of the change! The hyperlinked URLs that previously were RSS feeds have been left in a sorry state:
- defence, medianews and some others still exist, but are empty
- environment, faith, and some others still exist, with some articles in, but only up until late April 2016
- africa, asia, and some others just redirect to to the “World” section of the website front page
- education, and science redirect to the non-existent #section-education and #section-science sections of the website front page
- scotland redirects to the “Scotland” section of the website front page, which both exists and precisely matches the original RSS topic, so credit where credit is due!
The main feed (the only one I subscribed to) was news. It currently just redirects to the website front page. For the record, as far as I can tell, the last 3 articles published to it while it still existed were these: 1, 2, 3 – all of which say “Last updated at 12:01AM, March 30 2016”.
The way I think of this is that the Times provides multiple alternative ‘interfaces’ to let me manage my ‘consumption’ of their ‘content’.
The ‘dead tree’ interface is in many ways excellent. I can see all the articles available to me, one after the other, laid out on the page. I can skip the ones I’m not interested in by turning the page. I can easily remember the ‘position’ I have reached within the newspaper. I can cut out the articles I want to keep, or mark them with a pen. And I am in no hurry to do any of this because I can just leave the newspaper on my desk for an indefinite period and come back to it whenever I like.
The RSS interface was even better. It offered all of the above advantages, plus all the advantages of the digital world. But now it’s gone.
Now the only digital interfaces left are the website front page and the mobile apps, which are inevitably inferior, ‘closed garden’ approaches. I suppose I will have to cancel my subscription and try to find some other way to support 21st Century journalism.