The New York Real Times

Twitterification continues. Not only are other social networking sites, such as Facebook, scrambling to pour their members’ energy into the realtime stream, but more traditional publishers are also adopting the Twitter model to firehose their content. Build your arks, my friends: The stream is going mainstream.

Yesterday, it was the New York Times that took the realtime plunge with the launch of Times Wire, a jittery twittery service that the paper describes as “a continuously updated stream of the latest stories and blog posts.” The news scroll updates every minute, as fresh stories flicker into consciousness and old ones flicker out. Times Wire doesn’t just give the Gray Lady a facelift; it jabs an IV into the ashen flesh of her forearm and hooks her up to a Red Bull drip bag. It’s Times Wired.

This isn’t the first appearance of Times Wire. The original was installed next to the death bed of former president Woodrow Wilson on February 1, 1924, as the Times reported in a story headlined “Times Wire Near Bedside”:

Special facilities to transmit the news from former President Wilson’s bedside were installed by The New York Times early this evening. A telephone wire was connected with The Times Washington Bureau in the Albee Building and temporary headquarters half a block from the Wilson home in S Street. A Morse instrument was attached to this wire and every change in Mr. Wilson’s condition was instantly flashed to the Washington Bureau and then transmitted over leased wires to the New York office of The Times, giving the most expeditious service.

That’s right: Woodrow Wilson, though he surely didn’t realize it at the time, was the world’s first Twitterer.

woodrow: Still dying.

Now every story gets the ailing president treatment. Not only is all the news fit to stream, but realtime renders all news equal.


But there’s real realtime and there’s faux realtime, and it remains to be seen whether the Times will prove streamworthy. Techcrunch worries that the paper’s “real-time river isn’t flowing fast enough.” After all, “by the time an old media site gets a story approved, written and edited, a dozen blogs probably have already covered the same news.” Times Wire offers “some interesting reads,” but “none are particularly new.”

Realtime is a harsh mistress. She wants everything, from androgynous 80s pop stars to terminally ill world leaders, and she wants it now.

This post is an installment in Rough Type’s ongoing series “The Realtime Chronicles,” which began here.

12 thoughts on “The New York Real Times

  1. Bart

    If there are a dozen other tech blogs all rushing to say the same thing, why do you need the New York Times to do the same exact thing? There’s room for a source that’s there when the dust settles. Sometimes the fastest response isn’t the most accurate.

  2. Tom Panelas

    Is there anyone who’s willing to make a rational case that the dissemination of all news in real time (er, I mean realtime) has any social value at all? That unless we’re talking about a 9/11-type disaster; the sudden, unexpected death of a sitting president; an economic development on which investors must base instant decisions; or a big weather event that affects many people’s safety and travel plans, there is anything to be gained by having everyone learn of it moments after it happens in the middle of the day instead of when they get home at night?

    Is it important that we find out about Rod Balgojevich’s indictment while we’re sitting at our desks? Is it worth having our already fractured streams of consciousness fractured further still, while we’re trying to make judgments critical to the success of our lives and businesses, to learn that today, at long last, Scott Peterson has been arrested for the murder of his third wife?

    I know we want to hear this stuff in realtime, or many of us do, at any rate. But that’s not what I’m asking. And I ask if there is a collective, social benefit to this because there certainly is a downside, if only in the loss of perspective about what’s important and where our attention should be.

  3. Malcolm Brown

    I wonder if the press of RealTime is making us stupid, or might make us stupid? What’s more important: being first or being accurate? It could be that being-first and being-accurate are somewhat inversely proportional. The rush to be first could result in misinformation, and if we are fed a diet of misinformation, we would grow stupid (or gullible or both).

    I wonder.

  4. Linuxguru1968

    Anyone want to make a guess to when Twitter or its non de plume will become the dramatic element in a horror movie? In movies like Feardotcom, the Internet was kind of a secondary dramatic element – its part of the background but not an active participant. But with Twitter you can build real-time dramatic build ups! Remember those security camera photos of accused killer Phillip Markoff? What was he texting just after he shot that prostitute? Could he have been twitting? Suppose a Green River Killer or a Son of Sam was documenting their exploits on Twitter as they happened, would the world just watch?

    I remember when Second Life made an appearance on CSI; I’m surprised Twitter has come up yet. Come to thing of it I’ve never seen Google, Yahoo, Hotmail or any other web properties as major player in movies or TV. IMHO, whether Twitter becomes an important social tool or just more Internet flotsam may depend how the main stream media presents it.

  5. Stan Mag

    how is that different from “liveblogging”, as most media sites already do anyway for big events? Same thing, only poorer in content and ‘commentability’

  6. Kevin Kelly

    Time to bring back that infamous PUSH article in Wired. In a very clumsy way, it’s about real time browser-less twitter TV.


    (One of these years it’s gonna stick.)

  7. pitsch

    as commented below an earlier post, could this be the rise of the “realtime business class” news model and give an end to the rat race of twitter’s telegram style?

  8. Ciaran

    What minute fraction of the population is sitting in front of their computer all day consuming real-time news?

    Oh yeah, bloggers.

  9. Capirossi


    Don’t you think that realtime which brings to people continuous information flows will quickly require to have efficient clients for helping to sort all this information ?

    or example, it may be a customized information map system which give you back in real time the indicators on what is interesting for you within the flow.

    Best regards

    Jerome Capirossi

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