Ethic of the link, revisited

Well, it was about time. From the New York Times on Monday:

“Thou shalt not link to outside sites” — a long-held commandment of many newsrooms — is eroding.

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.

These experiments exemplify “link journalism,” an idea that is gaining traction in other newsrooms across the country. 

This brings us back to the “ethic of the link,”  a concept first expressed by Jeff Jarvis and repeated by him often as one of the central tenets of the new architecture for news online:

The link layer on news

Add that together and we end up with a new link layer atop the news: links to original reporting; links to complementary reporting; links to sources (not to mention links to and from discussions). It’s part of the new architecture of news that I wrote and doodled about here. Upendra Shardanand, the founder of Daylife (where I am a partner), wrote about it here, arguing that the key to the new architecturer is superior navigation to news.

And I believe that it will become important for us to link to our sources and influences — as well as transcripts and additional reporting — to show readers how we arrived where we have in a story. When I was last in London, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger called this footnoting a story. He’s better educated than I; I’ll call it linkboxing.

This ethic of the link will become all the more important as news organizations pare down to their essence. I’ve said often that they will have to do what they do best and link to the rest.

This leads to a new Golden Rule of Links in journalism — link unto others’ good stuff as you would have them link unto your good stuff. This emerges from blogging etiquette but is exactly contrary to the old, competitive ways of news organizations: wasting now-precious resources matching competitors’ stories so you could say you’d done it yourself. That must change.

In the ecosystem of links and the new architecture of news that it spawns, I believe it is vital that we as an industry find ways to point to and give credit to original reporting. That is how original journalism will be supported, in the end: by monetizing the audience that comes to it, whether through advertising or contributions.

More from Jeff Jarvis on this subject here and more on links generally here.

 

You might also remember that we watched this video in which Jay Rosen explains the ethic of the link. As Scott Karp—another big proponent of linking in journalism—put it so well in introducing this clip:

As Jay Rosen explains in this video, understanding the value of links, and how they connect content, ideas, and people, is fundamental to understanding the value of the web. And understanding the value of the web is the key to unlocking the new business models that journalism needs to survive and thrive in the digital age:

See Karp’s post: How Newsrooms Throw Away Value By Not Linking To Sources On The Web

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