I’m often astonished to come across – still – the occasional journalist or editor who thinks that linking out from a news story or other page to third party content is counterproductive because, in their minds, it simply sends traffic away.
I suppose, on the face of things, that makes sense but there is value, in fact there is enormous value, in making the link and anyone who denies this need only look at the commercial success of Google for evidence that sending users away, quickly and directly, to what they want does make business sense. Google does this through an automated process. Content producers, including news and media websites, can do it better because they can apply editorial skills to the process.
No website can provide everything it’s users are likely to want but, increasingly, niche sites are popping up that cater to very specific interests, or focus upon narrow topics at a level of detail that most traditional media and news organisations can’t do. Audiences who come to your site looking for this content need to find it or they’ll go somewhere else the next time their looking for it. This is where editorialised links come in. Don’t just let your audiences slip away, provide the link that gets them – quickly – to the most relevant content and they’ll remember your site as being the best route to that content.
This morning I came across a post by Rich Gordon on the Readership Institute blog at Northwestern University. He argues very much the same:
"My colleague Limor Peer suggests
newspapers should work harder at making their Web sites into
destinations. But newspapers have been trying to build Web destinations
for more than a decade now, with little real success. Maybe it’s not a
matter of poor execution — maybe it’s the strategy that’s wrong.
I’m going to suggest a different approach: Instead of trying to build the best destination, build the best network.
kind of network I’m referring to is a web of interconnections — links
between content and between people. In essence, I’m arguing that on the
Web, news organizations — perhaps, all media — should focus on
building themselves "into the clickstream." The goal: make your Web
site a network hub that connects content and conversations."
Gordon provides a bullet point list of ways for websites to become "Mavens and Connectors". His list includes:
- link out — alot
- link, especially, to blogs
- link in — to related content of your own
- open up the archives
- use web technologies intelligently
- cultivate conversations about your content
- distribute your content widely
- partner with portals
- build your own social networks
- encourage use of ranking/rating sites
- build shortcuts across the web
The original post provides far more detail on each of these points and is well worth a read.