Most newspapers have had websites for a decade now. They’ve gone from shovelling print content onto a webpage to hosting video bulletins and podcasts, blogs and galleries, and even social networking.
And yet they still can’t seem to get one thing right: linking.
Take one basic story from this weekend that’s very close to my heart: the resignation of Bolton Wanderers boss Sam Allardyce. The club announced the resignation on Sunday afternoon with two statements: one from the chairman, and one from Sam himself. The coverage in most newspaper websites at the time consisted, essentially, of extracts from those statements plus a little history from the journalist. It was clear there was no extra information to be had.
In a story like this – bread-and-butter press release/statement material that fills a large proportion of newspapers and news websites – you would expect a link to the original material. Yes..? Well here’s a rundown:
- The Times’ coverage? No.
- The Guardian? No.
- The Telegraph? The Independent? No.
- The Sun, The Mirror, the Daily Mail, and even the online-only Football365 all failed to include links to the BWFC website statements.
- And local rags the Bolton News and even recently relaunched Manchester Evening News also failed to link.
So much for the new transparency in online journalism. So much for linking to your sources – or, indeed, to anything outside of your own site. So much for Jeff Jarvis’ column this week that argues “during big news stories … the role of the journalist now [is] to link, it seems.”
Linking is, of course, central to the web. It is the point. There was a period, years ago, when some website owners were afraid of including external links because they feared people would leave their site. Then they realised that links are a selling point of your site: your ability to provide helpful links elsewhere is part of what brings people to your site in the first place.
It’s one of the reasons blogs are so popular: they link profusely, habitually, and easily. And people come back again and again for more.
So please, stop pretending you’re some great newshound with access to the chairman and manager of Bolton Wanderers. You read the statements on a website we can all access. Save us the trip to Google and give us the links, please. Then we might just come back next time for more.