I hadn’t thought about it this way, not being a regular user of NYT online, but Jay Rosen makes the point very well – that up until now, NYT Digital has not seemed to understand the importance of permanence on the web, indeed has seemed to make decisions that run directly counter to these notions, and the one thing that About.com seems to get above all else is the importance of permanence and the long tail (which is why their pages come up so often in search results).
I think this is interesting, but it does seem rather an expensive way of going about things. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper just to make all their URLs permanent and not dump stuff into the archive after n days, rather than buying someone who already knew why this was important? Facetious question, I know, and there’s a lot more to it than that. The more I think about it, the more this looks like being about content clusters and niche tribes than about anything else.