The feature, called 'Watching', includes breaking and developing news reports, multimedia and user-generated content curated by Times reporters in a "truly global effort", said Marcus Mabry, The New York Times editor at large.
"We have a team of New York Times editors and reporters sitting in New York, Hong Kong, Paris and London," Mabry told Journalism.co.uk, "and we take responsibility for drafting posts and curating the web as the sun travels around the globe."
Mabry and Tyson Evans, editor for newsroom strategy, explained some of the thinking behind the new feature on its launch.
"We needed a way to let readers know information before it was crafted into a fully formed New York Times story with a beginning, middle and end," Mabry said. "Because information moves faster than that today."This is the first time we've embraced the stream mentalityTyson Evans, editor for newsroom strategy, The New York Times
While a homepage is static and updated with finished articles, audiences can now receive news on a constant basis, but the main Times output was not necessarily reflecting that, said Evans.
"It's giving us an opportunity to do things we've never had a great way to do," he said. "There are 1,000-plus journalists at the Times who use Twitter directly from the scene, in the field abroad, and we've never had a great pathway to get that first-hand witnessing or reporting right to the home page.
"Now we have a conduit that gets a reporter who is on the scene in Ferguson or anywhere around the world an outlet on the homepage as immediately as possible."
Mabry said that, from a journalist's perspective, the stream "helps fulfill a frustration that journalists are feeling today" in quickly disseminating information as "we want our information to be shared everywhere".
"The fact that now a New York Times reporter can tweet something out from a press conference, or from the field, or from Afghanistan and then have that go on the New York Times homepage is fantastic."
'Embracing the stream'
This is not the first time a news organisation has featured a real-time news feed on its homepage. Blogs have long offered the capability to have Twitter 'widgets' showing recent tweets, and Trinity Mirror began including a daily live blog on the homepage of some regional news outlets in 2012, before rolling out the practice this year.
The point at the New York Times, said Evans, was in adopting the idea of the feed on a global scale and assimilating some of the user habits from other platforms.There's a lot of freedom that comes with building around a streamTyson Evans, The New York Times
He described it as "hitting a sweet spot in terms of the speed of the home page, versus the speed of the full river of news" around the social web.
"This is the first time we've embraced the stream mentality," he said, "which is obviously the default way most people are interacting with media – between Facebook feeds and Twitter feeds – and this is really a chance for us to experiment with what the New York Times as a stream feels like."
When seen in the broader context of how online readers find their news, Evans said the "threshold and sensibility" of the Times is a better filter than the "raw feed" in supplying the most important information.
The original printed edition of the New York Times in the 1800s was an exercise in curation, said Mabry, so it makes sense to continue that practice by finding the best and most important reportage from around the world and relaying it to readers in a modern way.
"There was a time when we felt all the news we need to know we could cover," he said. "but in this day and age we don't feel that's true anymore.I can't wait to see what comes next and that's a really great feeling to haveMarcus Mabry, editor at large, The New York Times
"There's lots of excellent reporting that other people put out, including our competitors, and we wanted to make sure our readers got that information and we provided one place where they can get it. That's our home page."
Evans was keen to stress that 'Watching' is a "big first step" in terms of a newsfeed, and the Times will be looking to learn as much as possible from how users react to it, alongside other new projects like NYT Now app, launched in March, and political newsletter and mini site First Draft launched yesterday.
"There's a lot of freedom that comes with building around a stream so we're expecting to adapt to how readers use it," he said, "and how we change our internal reporting and editing muscles to adjust to a different speed of news than has traditionally happened here."
The Times was the subject of some industry derision in May when an internal innovation report was leaked to BuzzFeed, detailing some of the outlet's perceived digital failings.
But Evans described a "hunger inside the building now to be more product thinking" as a direct result of the report. in "imagining how the promise of New York Times journalism can be tried in new and interesting ways".
Mabry was keen to share his enthusiasm.
"I've been a journalist for 25 years and rather than being scared and looking over our shoulder about 'the end'," he said, "I can't wait to see what comes next and that's a really great feeling to have."
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