In TidBITS, when we link to pages elsewhere on the Web, we hope they’ll remain accessible indefinitely, much as we’ve taken pains to do with all of our articles from the very beginning. Alas, not all links will survive forever, but I’ve learned a trick for ensuring that links to articles in the New York Times do remain accessible for free, even after the articles themselves have moved into the NYT Archive. At that point, reading an article normally costs $5, or you can subscribe to the TimesSelect service for $8 per month or $50 per year and have access to 100 articles per month. (TimesSelect also provides access to Op-Ed pieces and certain columnists whose articles are never available for free online.)
However, because the New York Times considers itself as the newspaper of record, it worked out a deal in 2003 with Dave Winer of UserLand Software to provide permanent free links in RSS feeds generated through the Radio UserLand RSS aggregator. But the New York Times is apparently running its own RSS feeds now, so there’s no obvious way to find a permanent link to an article you’re reading on the New York Times Web site. There is a Permalink feature, but after an article has migrated into the NYT Archive, its permalink points to a TimesSelect abstract from which you can purchase the full text, rather than to the full text of the article.
So although neither the problem nor the solution is new, they’re new to me (and apparently to plenty of other people, to judge from the number of no-longer-free links to New York Times articles that I see on the Web). The trick – to which I was alerted by occasional TidBITS contributor Derek Miller – is to use the New York Times Link Generator, written by Aaron Swartz of the social bookmarking site Reddit. Just feed it a link to a New York Times article and it returns a version of the link that will remain free for the foreseeable future, though of course the Times could always change their policy. There’s also a bookmarklet you can use to generate a permanent link from the current page when you’re on the New York Times Web site.