Back in 1998 or 1999, when I started at the BBC as a Community Producer (the first time around), the BBC's Editorial Guidelines required that, when we did link to third party content, we checked all links on the page that we were linking to – to a depth of three further pages.
Imagine the effect on our ability, or willingness, to link considering that the policy could quickly require checking dozens, or even thousands, of pages. For example, linking to a page containing five links, each of which went to subsequent pages with five links, and each of those containing five links would require checking 5 x 5 x 5 = 125 pages. No wonder we hardly linked to anything back then.
The policy started to loosen up around the time that I headed up the BBC Blogs Network, a role I left two years ago. It wasn't logical, or even possible, for our bloggers to comply with this policy each and every time they wanted to link. But still, the policy was ingrained in the behaviours of many of our bloggers, who often preferred not to bother linking rather than risk breaking the policy or, in their minds, sending traffic away.
The BBC has long been lambasted for it's policy – and apparent unwillingness – to link out to the rest of the web. One review of the BBC's local services a few years ago, for example, expressed the frustrations of local newspapers, and recommended that the BBC share more of it's traffic with those sites by linking to them. It never really happened.
It's a pleasure, then, to come across this post on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog, discussing a new BBC strategy document encouraging BBC journalists to link more to relevant content. In an email to the author of the story on the Nieman blog, the editor of the BBC News website Steve Herrmann, who I know, wrote:
"The strategy envisages the BBC as a cultural and public
space, one that isn’t trying to sell anything and can be trusted. It
sets out the aim of building this broader public space by working with
other public cultural organisations to share and promote a wider range
So the principle for BBC Online, which covers news, weather, sport
and programme content, is that it should be “a window on the web”,
guiding audiences to the best of the internet as well as partnering
with external providers — and that is why we want to increase the
Sometimes it's nice to both give, and receive, good link.