Earlier this month the New York Times launched a beta testing playground called Beta620. It's a site for the news organization to try out new web experiments, some of which may graduate to become full-fledged New York Times products.

An interesting Semantic Web experiment went live this week, called Longitude. As the name suggests, it presents a geographical interface for accessing content from The Times. It uses The Time's large store of metadata, along with Linked Open Data from the Web.

Longitude displays a set of "Times T" pins plotted out in a Google Map. According to an explanatory blog post, the locations for these pins were all derived from Geonames - a worldwide geographical database. Clicking on a pin pops up a balloon containing ten recent Times articles relevant to that location.

Additionally, some locations have one or two additional tabs: "Natives" and/or "Companies." Clicking on those tabs presents you with list of locally-born people and locally-headquartered organizations.

It's a relatively small project, but this type of functionality may become a part of your future news reading experience. For a national (indeed, international) publication like The Times, it's often interesting to see what stories local to you have been published. Also which local people and companies have been in the news recently.

It's encouraging to see Linked Data continuing its push into commercial areas like this.

Disclosure: ReadWriteWeb is a syndication parter of the NYTimes.