Content Is An Organic Linking Process

Posted by

The last period at the end of any piece of content is where the story really begins.

Content has not been a finalized piece of product for some years now. When Websites first started gaining in popularity and more and more people were coming online, there was a serious conundrum. On one hand, you wanted your visitors to stay on your site and stay focused on your offering. On the other hand, to truly win the Search Engine wars, you needed other Websites linking into yours, and you needed to be linking out.

It’s 2008 and still most of the major media companies are acting like it’s 1998.

If you didn’t know that the New York Times article, Mainstream News Outlets Start Linking to Other Sites (registration required), was published on October 12th, 2008, you might swear that this article was published with the wrong date on it. Have you noticed how few newspaper and media sites actually do link out to other sources (if they link out at all) or how many of them are really "open" in terms of sharing, commenting and enabling their content to roam more freely on the Internet?

"Embracing the hyperlink ethos of the Web to a degree not seen before, news organizations are becoming more comfortable linking to competitors — acting in effect like aggregators. The Washington Post recently introduced a political Web site that recommends rival sites. This week NBC will begin introducing Web sites for its local TV stations with links to local newspapers, radio stations, online videos and other sources. And The New York Times will soon offer its online readers an alternative home page with links to competitors."

Welcome to "link journalism."

The logic: the more you send people away to the content that is most relevant to them, the more they will keep coming back for more (think about how Google does it). This runs counter-intuitive to their current model of keeping users on their space for longer periods of time in hopes of driving up ad revenue through increased pageviews, etc…

Furthering the conversation is an excellent Blog post from Josh Korr over at Publishing 2.0 (and the guy who coined the term "link journalism") titled, Nervous About Link Journalism? Ignore Web’s ‘Cesspool’ And Tap Its ‘Natural Spring’. The Blog cites an interesting article from Advertising Age titled, Google’s Schmidt Says Internet ‘Cesspool’ Needs Brands, where it says:

"In a talk that he structured mostly as an invitation for questions and ideas, Mr. Schmidt declined to advise magazines on looking more popular to Google’s page-ranking programs.

‘We don’t actually want you to be successful,’ he said. The company’s algorithms are trying to find the most relevant search results, after all, not the sites that best game the system. ‘The fundamental way to increase your rank is to increase your relevance,’ he added.

On the subject of print, especially newspapers as we have known them, Mr. Schmidt was decidedly gloomy. ‘The evidence is not good,’ he said, guessing that the print business will eventually comprise a smaller piece of publishers’ much larger online businesses."

Jeff Jarvis over at BuzzMachine shares his latest presentation on the changes in media called, New Business Models For News:

New Business Models for News

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: cuny news)

The overall message is this: if you don’t have the goods, link out those who do. If you do have the goods, link out to those who can add even more to the conversation and content.

The bigger message: your content is organic. It has no expiry date, people will find it through the search engines at any given point in time. When they do find it, they may want to comment on it or be inspired by it to the point of creating their own content based on it. They may want to link to it, and they may want it to link to them. This is the new distribution model… whether the mass media likes it, can monetize it or not.

What is your experience with linking? Do you find that people leave and never come back or that your linking is what keeps them coming back for more?


  1. “Linking out” is going to happen, whether you like it or not.
    I have yet to meet someone who reads or watches anything online and then says “Well, I’ve seen/read that one item. Guess I’ll go do something else now.” People want to know more or find out if there is more to what they already know. So be the guy who gives them more. Soon, you’ll be recognised as one of those guys who’s got the downlow on everything and that can only be a good thing.
    Personally, I try to provide links to other media/sites/resources that back me up or further explain/illustrate my content (where I can) – because I think other people like to consume information like I do.

  2. I totally agree. It’s so frustating when you don’t have the link that goes to the content you expect to. That happens quite often on French websites – I mean edited in France. They want to keep their readers but they create frustration rather than loyalty.

  3. Interesting piece Mitch.
    Some years ago I worked with a national newspaper here in Malaysia and we were involved in building what *today* is the largest English language daily both online and offline.
    The problem was that the people building it and writing for it – the journalists – were stopped at every point by the ad people who were so worried about potential loss of revenue that they hobbled the site at every point they could. Eventually they got it sorted out and it’s a pretty decent effort for now but it still has a ways to go.
    Personally, I tend to read sites that allow extensive linking to relevant sources … makes for much easier content searching and also allows for multiple points of view to a single piece.
    A UK based SEO company also ran some informal research as well which I linked to here when I had a few thoughts about news sites and how they linked. It basically measured offhand how well various UK newspapers were doing in terms of linking out and what their performance in readership and link back s were. Not surprisingly there was a correlation.
    I guess these developments are good in the long run.
    It offers hope if nothing else that big media is finally getting the big idea right.

  4. I find it amusing to see that competitors link to each others sites for content in an effort to increase advertising revenue. I wonder if this model could work for other industries as well. I think it could but it would be interesting to see how my customers would perceive the idea.

  5. Randy – I believe that in some instances they already do ‘link’ after a fashion. Coopetition was how it was described to me once … a few examples:
    – LCD manufacturers compete to the same people they sell the raw LCDs to as they offer LCD televisions and screens under their own brands in the open market.
    – Apple and Microsoft compete as they work together.
    – European and (I think) Korean auto makers work together on a whole host of automotive technologies and pieces of their cars … and then go out and build their unique takes on the same platforms to take on the rest of the market and each other.

Comments are closed.