May 9, 2009

Dear Mr. Sulzberger,

Hell hath no fury like a reporter deleted.

I have a major personal and professional gripe against The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.

For more than a decade, as you know, I enjoyed a wonderful and globe-trotting career at both newspapers. I would recommend anyone to work for these publications. You were a great employer, I had great colleagues and both publications are great to read.

That said, your normally web-savvy team just made one of the most boneheaded moves done by a major news website since the dawn of the Internet.

This image - All that remains online from my Sudan reports.

This image - All that remains online from my Sudan reports.

When you merged the IHT and NY Times websites about one month ago I saw real logic and had high hopes. The NY Times has been leading innovation in online journalism for quite some time, while was run on a shoestring budget out of Paris, by a feverishly overworked team.

Despite their small budget and small team, however, the IHT website managed to build an online global media powerhouse often outranking the NY Times website on international stories in Google News.

The IHT website earned an ever-increasing pagerank due to all of the blogs and sites linking to stories there. (Based on the number of Internet pages linking back to a site, pagerank starts at 1 and rises to 10. A page with a Google rank of 5 will show up higher than a page with a Google rank of 3 and the grew to match at a Google rank of 9. You can check pagerank of any site here.)

So, what did the NY Times do to merge these sites?

They killed the IHT and erased the archives.

1- Every one of the links ever made to IHT stories now points back to the generic NY Times global front page.

2- Even when I go to the NY Times global page, I cannot find my articles. In other words, my entire journalistic career at the IHT – from war zones to SARS wards – has been erased.

On a personal level I am horrified that I can no longer see all my stories. The IHT logo on this blog used to link to a search of the IHT website for my articles. On a professional level, I am appaled that the NY Times would kill all the links back to the IHT website. Imagine the power of combining two sites with a Google rank of 9 instead of killing one.

Also, imagine all the frustrated potential readers who click on a link to a specific story only to find themselves landing on the generic NY Times global front page.

The only way readers can find the IHT stories is by going to places where they were copied and reposted or Google cache. Is that a good for readers (or shareholders)?

In conclusion, Mr. Sulzberger, please do what you can to resurrect my articles onto the Internet.

Failing that, could I please drop by sometime to download a digital copy of my articles for my own reference?

In advance, thank you for your help on this.


Thomas Crampton

UPDATE: Thank you to those who took the time to search for my articles.

While you may have found 3,510 of my articles that were also published by the NY Times, my articles in the IHT are still not there. You will note that most of the articles by me available on the NYT site are during 2004 or after, which is when the two papers became closer.

Here are two links to test:

First story:
Second Story:

These were a scoop I wrote about a Malaysian official who was acting as UN representative for political reconciliation at the same time as doing business with the ruling generals. (IE: Somewhat of a conflict of interest.) I would think it better if such stories were still available to people clicking through from sites like Asia Sentinel, where I found these links.

Here is what the NYT says when you click on the links:

Here is what happens when you search for my name and the Malaysian official’s name:

UPDATE2: Some choice stories of other publishers doing the same thing.

UPDATE3: Wikipedia is now grappling with the problem of all the dead links to IHT stories. In a separate posting, Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia founder, explains in a video interview with me the issues at hand.

UPDATE4: Now have an estimate of just how much the bad links are costing NYT shareholders. According to calculations by Rick Burnes of the Global Tech Products blog:

From a business perspective, the NYT is throwing away money — at least $100,000 every month the links are broken. According to, was getting over 1.5 million visitors/month before it shut down. If a third of those visitors were from search and direct old links, 500,000 visitors a month are hitting the dead end in the image above, instead of the page they were looking for. To buy that traffic from Google at $.20/click, you’d have to pay $100,000 a month. Add that $100,000 to the value of the SEO authority accrues from its 3.9 million inbound links, and you have a sense of the money The Times is leaving on the table.

UPDATE 5: I have now closed off comments to this posting because the NY Times responded. Have a look at the follow-up posting and feel free to leave a comment there.