Every web journalist knows that linking is one of the most fundamental qualities of online journalism: a web article without links is like TV without moving images.
But in the last couple of years something else has become equally important: I’m talking about the embed.
Two years ago I noted how publishers were finally getting to grips with linking – and how embedding was a major factor in that.
As material from social media has become increasingly central to news stories, content management systems have finally been adapted to allow journalists to embed the very elements they were talking about: that controversial tweet; the Facebook reaction; the damning Instagram snap; the viral YouTube video.
In fact, the study might be underestimating the practice, because it focuses on social media embeds for only 4 platforms.
Embedded Google Maps, documents (Scribd, Slideshare), Flickr galleries, Vimeo and embedded social media curation tools like Storify are not included.
“Show, don’t tell”
In many ways the embed is the online equivalent of the advice to “Show, don’t tell”.
If you’re telling us about something that happened elsewhere on the web — show it to us. Let us retweet it, favourite it, check that it is what you say.
In a nutshell, let us interact with it ourselves.
- “How do I embed a map/video/infographic/audio/timeline/chart/liveblog on WordPress?” Everything you need to know
- How linking brought the Mirror’s Hilary Benn speech transcript to life – while driving traffic & SEO
- How to embed a vertical video from YouTube or Vimeo
Linking – which has taken much longer to take root in newsroom practice – was about much the same thing. It was about:
- Showing the background to a story, so that you didn’t have to summarise it
- Showing how something worked, so you didn’t have to waste words explaining it
- Showing the evidence behind a factual claim
- Showing the things that someone could do next (book a ticket, visit the website, take part in a live chat)
It was about “Doing what you do best, linking to the rest“.
With embedding, users don’t have to leave our site to experience this added value. Embedded media contributes to engagement time on an article. It helps the bottom line.
This doesn’t mean that the link is no longer needed — but perhaps, with embeds now firmly established in the journalist’s toolkit, it will feel more intuitive to simply select that mention of a previous report and link to the damn thing.