Blogs and blogging Business and work Social Web Writing

Publishers rediscover the link economy

I’m reading through my feeds for an article I want to publish today on the imonomy blog and I noticed this story on Digiday titled “In search of Facebook love, publishers form link-sharing pacts with each other”. Publishers are looking for more ways to earn and retain readers and the latest tactic is, well, linking to each other’s stories:

At work here is what is called, variously, “social syndication” or “traffic exchange,” a technique increasingly in vogue among publishers looking to get their articles and brands in front of other readers. Publishers are measured by how many unique readers they can pull in, so working with a site that has a similar but not completely overlapping audience can help them extend the reach of their content. This is key now that Facebook is making it harder for publishers to reach readers organically. Publishers also say the deals help them fill in the gaps in their own social programming with stories that they didn’t or couldn’t write themselves, which is good for readers.

So, basically, publishers are returning to that old link economy model that made the blogosphere what it was but with a new name and, it seems, without trackbacks. I’d call this progress and a happy side effect for the open Web. It looks like the industry has also found religion with some old-fashioned sensibilities about audiences:

“That fiefdom-like thinking that ‘we own this audience and it’s ours only’ is very old media. It’s like people saying, ‘I only subscribe to The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times,’” said Daily Dot CEO Nick White. “It’s just not the right model anymore.”

Long live the Link Economy?

Image source: Pexels

Blogs and blogging Mindsets People Writing

Hey IOL, it’s ok to link to Gareth Cliff’s blog post

I just read an article on IOL titled “Gareth Cliff pours out his heart in blog“. I noticed that while IOL mentions Cliff’s “blog post [which he wrote] to share how he feels about M-Net’s decision to fire him”, IOL didn’t bother to link to his actual blog post, titled “While We Were Sleeping  #SparrowGate2“.


Journalism professor (and general expert on matters such as this), Jeff Jarvis wrote the following in his book “Geeks Bearing Gifts” (see his blog post highlighting this, here, and the full chapter of his book, here):

Media people tend to believe that content has intrinsic value — that is why they say people should pay for it and why some object when Google quotes snippets from it. But in an ecosystem of links online, new economics are in force. Online, content with no links has no value because it has no audience. Content gains value as it gains links. That formula was the key insight behind Google: that links to content are a signal of its value; thus, the more links to a page from sites that themselves have more links, the more useful, relevant, or valuable that content is likely to be.

IOL would probably object to people citing its articles without, at the very least, linking back to the source articles. It is only responsible and appropriate that its journalists link to online sources they reference in their articles. Links are the currency of online media (it’s a relatively old concept but it still applies).

When you just take material from someone without the courtesy of a link, at a bare minimum, you devalue their contribution and undermine your own insistence that you be credited for your work. If you don’t want people to exit your site when they click on the link, just modify the link properties to open a new tab or window. If your article is as engaging as you think it is, your reader will stick around and keep reading.


About the article title: This is just me being pedantic. Cliff didn’t pour “his heart in blog”, it is a blog post. The blog is the whole thing. The blog post is the atomic unit of the blog. Like I said, I’m just being pedantic IOL isn’t the only publication that makes that mistake.

Image credit: Chain Links by Unsplash, sourced from Pixabay and released under a CC0 Dedication.

Business and work Mindsets Policy issues

Technopanic and bad laws

Jeff Jarvis has covered German publishers’ efforts to prevent Google and other search engines (but mostly Google) from linking to their publications and quoting snippets of their content unless a Google pays for the privilege.

These publishers seem to be ignoring the fact that Google sends a substantial amount of traffic to them in the process, at least in public discourse. Jarvis’ post titled “Oh, those Germans” summarises the German offensive and how they have, essentially, backtracked because they didn’t seem to anticipate what the effect of Google not linking to their publications would have on their bottom lines. He also quotes from a longer essay he wrote which nicely captures the broader implications of these sorts of campaigns:

I worry about Germany and technology. I fear that protectionism from institutions that have been threatened by the internet — mainly media giants and government — and the perception of a rising tide of technopanic in the culture will lead to bad law, unnecessary regulation, dangerous precedents, and a hostile environment that will make technologists, investors, and partners wary of investing and working in Germany.

German publishers may be leading the charge but I don’t think this will stop there. It is only a matter of time before similarly myopic content owners will attempt to prevent Google and similar companies from leveraging their content for mutual benefit. This sort of approach is already prevalent in the entertainment industry which has only recently begun to explore better business models.

The risk of “bad law, unnecessary regulation” is especially worrying because legislators tend to operate in extended timeframes, create impractical laws that are technology-specific and, increasingly, too rigid to be practically useful in an environment which is remarkably dynamic.

Hopefully the industry will self-correct, even if it blames its villain for its back peddling.