All The News Fit To Feed: NY Times Tapped Facebook When Site Went Down

Where did The New York Times turn to post stories after its site went down Wednesday? Facebook. The outage, which the Times said occurred within seconds of a “scheduled maintenance update,” lasted from 11:10 a.m. until about 1:00 p.m.
 
But before the site came back up (and shortly after), the newspaper published full-length stories to its Facebook page, using the obscure Facebook Notes blogging tool. NYT also relied on Twitter to alert readers to the switch and tweet out headlines and links to the five stories posted to its Facebook account.
 
While short-lived, NYT’s use of Facebook as its front page cast a spotlight on Facebook Notes, a blogging tool the site launched back in 2006 that has gotten little traction since. That’s largely because it has been overshadowed by newer, more prominent features like Timeline, rolled out last year.
 
But when it became clear the NYT site wouldn’t be coming back immediately, Lexi Mainland, the newspaper’s social media editor, suggested using Facebook Notes as an alternative for publishing stories. It had used Notes only a couple of times before, earlier this summer, for stories related to Afghanistan and Myanmar because its Facebook page is especially effective for reaching international readers.
 
Of the newspaper's 3.3 million Facebook fans, about 60% are from outside the U.S.
 
Mainland said the Notes feature was well-suited to the task of back-up publishing platform because it’s flexible, allows for creating headlines and other formatting, continuous updating, and posting of photos. “It was a good fit for what we needed to do today on the fly,” she said, noting that three of the stories that Facebook posted were updated four times during the outage.
 
The New York Times has since gone back to posting stories on its Facebook page that link directly back to its Web site, which it says is now fully up and running again. But the indirect publicity Facebook Notes gained in the episode probably won’t dampen speculation that Facebook may have plans to transform Notes into a Tumblr competitor.
 
Those rumblings emerged in part as a result of Facebook’s acqui-hire of the team behind blogging platform Storylane in March. Facebook’s outside public relations agency on Wednesday was publicizing the NYT's use of Notes, perhaps hoping to draw more attention to the feature, if not underscore Facebook’s role as the second home of The New York Times online

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