What links should mean to news media in the future

Most media folks know that casual readers and viewers don’t really care if one news organization beats another by a few minutes on a story.

That’s about the pride of those involved.

If you were beaten, you either searched for a new angle or rehashed what was done, trying to add value in some way.

I figure that will long continue into the future, but I think something should change, an admission of sorts.

Continue reading What links should mean to news media in the future

How good are your links?

I do my fair share of complaining about links, and I’m not alone in suggesting there are good links and there are bad ones.

I have, I’ll admit, done all four — from great to bad — but it’s important to learn the differences.

  • Great link — Include a publication and/or author name, important keywords and give your reader a reason to go there, instead of summarizing all the content.
  • Good link — At least two of the three stipulations above: author, keywords and reason fo your readers to go there.
  • OK link — Linked from a phrase of less than three word or one like “More,” “here” or “this.” Context can vary these from acceptable to crummy. If it’s for additional information (i.e. “My opinion on this matter. For more information, see here.”) or in addition to a previous, stronger link, it doesn’t much matter. If you’re trying to lessen the chance of a reader following the link or using another’s content to get clicks and offering a throwaway link to cover your tracks, that’s probably into the realm of a bad link.
  • Bad link — Maliciously linking on negative keywords or somehow obscuring the link. Yes, while I have fallen victim to it, hotlinking images is certainly a bad link — though I do sometimes (wrongly) justify it to myself if I am promoting the product or image host in my story or post.

Now, the better read and more powerful your site, the better your links are, but the general rules of link ethics remain the same, even though an OK link from a high-traffic site is probably just as influential as a great link from a site of middling traffic.

We still need to establish a common understanding for good linking practices.

What am I missing?

The reasons to link and what they say about your Web integrity

Why do you use links?

By my count, there are four reasons why you put a link in your online story, post or article, and I think figuring out which of them describes your motivation says a great deal about your Web integrity.

The reasons for linking that come to mind for me:

  • Link Share — You actually want your readers to follow the link; as I’ve written, the word “blog” started as Web log which was meant to mean a “logging of the Web.” So, a fundamental blog style is to collect good links and share them with your readers, with the intent for them to follow them. Like here.
  • Value Link — You are adding value through commentary, analysis or aggregation of similar or related stories or ideas. You’re referencing a story or another post and adding your own opinion or aggregation to it. Like this.
  • Source Link — This transparency allows readers to follow where you got your information or how you made whatever claim is linked out. This is also a way of referencing the past and following a fundamental rule of the Web: never let your reader go through a story and not have somewhere else to go. This should be the most common use of links, so you should see it all over the place.
  • Content-use Link — The link is casual payment for someone else’s content, where you’re using that content to get your own clicks and page views. This can be a simple swiping of text or accepting you’ve been beaten on a story you should have had yourself and giving a bad link. This is often dirty, as I’ve written before. So, to do it right, you have to either add value or give a good link — including publication name, keywords and a reason for your readers to go that way.

In my mind, the first three are legitimate and the fourth can be, but rarely is.

Are there others?