Why Don’t Newspapers Link Out?

via GIPHY (Hey look! A link)

(Updated 7/9 with email examples)

Linking Policies are Stupid

Let’s chat about the stupidity and inefficiency of newspapers linking policies.

Recently, I’ve picked up a few new larger clients who tend to get a good amount of positive press. Hooray! Being the opportune link builder I am, I reach out to the news publications in order to try to get them to link back to my clients website. Unfortunately, this almost never works. Maybe 1% of the time. The policy of not linking out to other websites is insane and makes no sense. Here comes a rant…

My linkbuilding mentality is if anyone is quoted, sourced, mentioned or helps you do your job, you should link to them. Why the fuck would you not? That is basically the point of the internet and how this whole thing works. Restricting links is pointless and harmful to users. How can you trust the writer and the original source of the article without a link to another (original) source? Why would writers not credit others? Are they trying to hide originality? Linking out takes nothing away from a writer, in fact it makes them look more credible because a link would prove they did their homework and researched the topic they were writing on. Links matter. They add value to the story.

Newspaper writers should routinely link to other papers, government sources, competitor stories, background information, businesses – essentially anything which would be useful for readers should they choose to learn more information about said topic. Give readers what they want, and give credit where credit is due, especially now, when the origins of information and stories are vital to understand.

Linking Out Should Be Normal

How is this not journalistic practice already? When writing a paper in high school or college, did these people not cite their work? I know I had to.

While I was writing this post, I came upon a Twitter conversation with Dan Callis and Robyn Vinter….

Dan said this:

 

And they are. Newspapers are dying, or were dying and are on the struggle bus now. The newspaper industry has shed at least a fifth its journalists since 2001 and watched revenues plunge as competition from the internet has squeezed print publishers. Newspapers journalism is often cited as the worst career job in the U.S., while also having a contintious shrinking prospect pool. But enough piling on their profession. This article  (see how I did that) from NiemanLab is a bit outdated though it shows how the AP finally began to see the need to start linking to their own properties!! (emphasis mine)

Kaiser remembers breaking stories at smaller papers and seeing them edited, sanitized, and byline-less on the wire the next day. Several years ago, the AP added an “Information From” footnote to credit the news organization. Then the footnote got a link to that organization’s home page. About a year ago, the AP started crediting newsrooms in the body of the story.

Because the AP is a cooperative, it has no legal obligation to credit its members. But “that’s a legal point, not a journalistic one,” said Mike Oreskes, AP’s senior managing editor.

There you have it….a legal point, not a journalistic one. Credit your damn sources! There is NO reason not to. And this is simply a link from the AP to one of their sister papers.

Here is the full rant from Robyn saying newspapers are taking her content and not crediting her:

Linkbuilding is Hard

Now I get it, most of you reading this are in the digital space. We live on SEO and link building. Others outside our space do not. On top of that, I work with (mostly) lawyers. It’s tough enough to get links, let alone in the legal market.

I also understand the need for newspapers/businesses/etc to not want to appear like they are promoting lawyers on their platform. It would appear unfair/unethical to others. It makes sense. But this is not a promotion, it is beneficial information for the reader. From this Poynter article:

Q: We often supplement a pick-up with some original reporting, such as to call an attorney for comment or to update the condition of a patient. Should we still provide the direct link in those cases?

A: Yes. In such an instance, the substance of the story is still derived from a single member’s contribution and should get the credit.

This doesn’t only apply to lawyers. Newspapers simply don’t link out to anyone. Judging by Robyn’s thread above, they don’t like linking out to other journalists either, and are essentially stealing their peers work.

Example Emails

I’ve had some people reach out and wanting to see examples of the emails I receive. Here are a few:

The first is a typical email I will send to a reporter. It outlines why I am contacting them, who I am contacting them on behalf, the article they wrote, and a page or 2 on my clients website where I think it would be appropriate for them to link to.

This sums up many of the responses I receive:

 

And another. This particular publication only links out to those which pay for advertising:

This guy doesn’t think that a quote from my client deserves a link back to his website:

If a newspaper reporter is going to reach out for a quote, provide a fucking link back. If a reporter is going to do a story and mention a lawyer, business, competing paper, educational publication, or anyone where they didn’t get the source information themselves – link back! People need to know what the business stands for, what they believe in, why they are defending or prosecuting who they are, or background information about the story. It’s not a promotion of the business, it’s useful information.