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."
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?