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Crediting Sources of Stories – Do You Do it?

Posted By Darren Rowse 18th of January 2007 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been having a conversation with two bloggers about when and how to link to sources of the news that you write.

The conversation emerged out of my observation that these two bloggers were posting very similar news stories to ones that I’d been posting on one of my blogs.

Now at a first look I didn’t think anything of it – after all it is natural for blogs in a similar niche to report the same news as each other – however on a closer look I began to suspect that they were using my blog as the source for many of their stories.

Their posts would appear within 24 hours of mine with the same links, same quotes, same pictures (with the same file names) and same post structure (ie points in the same order, the same opinions, the same paragraph structure etc).

The actual content had been re-written in their own words but the bones of their posts were very similar to mine and this was happening on a daily basis. In fact it was very obvious that they were using my own posts as a basis for theirs – however there were no links back or mentions of the sources of their stories.

I began getting emails from a few readers asking if I knew knew I was being ‘copied’ by these blogs and so decided to email the bloggers concerned to ask for an explanation. I did so feeling very awkward and in two minds. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter (I’ve got more important things to worry about) – however I was curious about why they did it and wanted to let them know that I (and others) had noticed.

The email conversations that resulted from my email have been interesting to this point and highlights our different approaches to sourcing stories.

The main blogger that I’ve since chatted with took my email very well and in the spirit that it was intended and confessed that while he did find some of his stories on my blog that he didn’t want to link to the blog he found the story on (mine) but instead linked to the original sites that I was linking to. In a sense he saw what he was doing as cutting out the middle man and felt it was legitimate.

He explained that he did this to ‘save his readers time’ as if he did link both to me they’d end up just reading the same basic news more than once.

On some levels I can see his point. Sometimes it can be frustrating as a reader to see the same story rewritten everywhere in much the same way. I’m sure some readers just want the news and don’t really care where it came from.

However my approach is to always attempt to link to the story itself as well as the person who tipped me off about it.

While it might ‘save the reader time’ to not to link to sources I find that most readers who are interested in a story do like to see what others have to say about it – both other bloggers and those who have commented on the story.

I also think linking to sources also is a good practice for your blog in a number of ways:

• search engines – many SEO experts talk about how outbound links can actually help your own blog’s ranking if you’re linking to relevant pages. Linking to the places you find stories shows your site is connected to relevant parts of the web.

• profile in your niche – you can help your reputation and lift your blog’s profile with other bloggers in your niche who see the incoming links to their blog and check out more of what you’re writing. In linking generously to other blogs you’ll find they’ll be more likely to link back to you which is good for traffic generation and SEO.

• readers – I find that readers respond well to seeing how widely you read and how well connected you are. While too many links might overwhelm them a few well placed ones can show that you know what you’re talking about and that you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the niche you’re writing about.

accountability – Lastly I think linking to sources adds a level of accountability and transparency to a blog that can actually lift it up a notch in terms of quality. I know that if I’m reporting a news story that I’ve found elsewhere that I’ll often put more effort into writing the story as I know people will compare what I’ve written to what my source has written.

But that’s just my approach and the conversation with these other bloggers is highlighting to me that bloggers take different positions on this and argue for them strongly.

I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of others:

Do you always credit sources of stories? Are there some times that you don’t? Why/Why not?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. In some way or the other the original original content is usually not very probable. Most of the bloggers usually read of a story somewhere and try to interpret the same in their fashion or give a spin on the story in a way that reflects their understanding. If two or more bloggers communicate stories consistently with the same spin it cant be coincidence as you just realized for yourself.

    But yes the points that you mention in your mail about the blogger copying your stories saving users time or acknowledging the original content writer is simply being innovative.

    I think its not only the theme or source that you need to acknowledge but also needs to acknowledge the specific spin that the blogger is copying. If this is the case you should have definitely been acknowledge too.

  2. I tend to link prominently to the original source but also shove in a “via:” – credit where it is due, if you find the story from another blog, even a single-liner link drop, then it should be credited. Got to admit though some days where I see the same story 10 times I link to the best quality or most unique ones, eg. the iPhone story wouldn’t have been improved by a bunch of links saying go look at blog NNN

  3. They way I do it most of the time is when something is linked on another blog I go and read the original article. After I read the article, I form an opinion based on the article itself and link that. I like to write my own opinions rather than those of others when writing on topics.

    I never thought about linking the blog from which I found the story originally. But after reading this article, I think I will start. It makes sense to from an SEO standpoint. But I also agree that it can help people in various niches find each other.

    Great post.

  4. Crediting sources is huge. I almost always try to link to the site that provided inspiration for my ideas. And if there’s an “original” site that broke the story, I might link back to it, too. The only real exceptions are: (a) I was already writing something similar, and (b) the story is something that has been picked up by a number of people already (something meme-like, basically).

    On the other side of the coin, I do like to have credit when somebody uses something I’ve written. But I’m not in this for an ego-trip. In my niche (personal finance), I think it’s far more important for the information to get out there and into people’s minds than it is for me to get an sort of credit.

  5. So what happened with the second individual you mentioned who you emailed??

  6. Bloggers who have the ability to create their own material are, in general, much better writers and have more sophisticated insight than those who reproduce other peoples work. This is why I subscribe to your blog and not theirs.

    Everyone get slighted and ripped off from time to time, but it is good people like you who always shine in the end. Keep up the good work!

  7. I always place a “via Source” link on my blog entries when it is appropriate. Sometimes citing two or more sources. When the story is really widespread, I’ll spare my readers the sources links… although I usually just choose one.

    Same goes with pictures.

  8. I ALWAYS credit, and as Chris Garrett says, will often throw in a ‘Via’ link as well as appropriate.

    There’s only so many stories in the world, so sometimes you will report the same story at the same time as a blog you also read. However, honesty pays in the long run though, because nothing is hidden on the web….

  9. Yes, I agree that it is important to link to the source of information and try to do that whenever I am referencing an external source whether it be another blog or a more commercial site.

  10. I link religiously. The only time I don’t if it is such a ubiquitous subject (like the recent Time magazine Person of the Year choice) that everyone is writing about it and the idea did not come from one source. If I feel that linking to the original source will slow the reader down (which I often do) I STILL link. But I just do it at the bottom like this: Thanks to ABC Blog for the tip. I imbed the blog’s URL in that sentence.

  11. You are so right. Linking is very important to the original article as is noting who sent you the link. I’ve seen so many forms of copying or pleagerism that it makes me ill. I’d personally like to see more hints to good news and if I do, I’d put a link to the blog and the person’s name of who did it. It’s common sense and free advertising for all. :-)

  12. I always try to credit the tip and the original source. But I’ll only write about a topic if I can add something original too. I don’t see much point in writing a post that just regurgitates another blog’s subject matter.

  13. Definitiely credit both sources, usually I’ll link to the original story and then do something like “Thanks to X for the tip on this story”.

    However, I won’t use the tip source info, I’ll come up with my own take based on the original, and then maybe quote part of the tip source if I want to discuss a point.

  14. I link to “My” source to credit that person for informing me of something. Also if I quote someone I tend to e-mail them to give them the opportunity to correct/justify or elaborate on the quote. It’s all to do with Karma (only you’ll find that it’s almost “instant-karma when you are blogging).

    As for the second blogger, I would name and shame the bugger!

    Keep up the good work, you’re probably the most read blog in my reader.


  15. I always give out hat tips. It is the right thing to do when it comes to blogging. I try to link whenever possible and if I have 1 or 10 news sources I try to link to them all some how. I find those bloggers in most cases will come and thank me for the link by dropping a comment. You scratched my back and now I will scratch yours kind of a thing going on.

  16. As a teacher, I emphasize to my students to always quote their sources when writing papers; anything less is plagiarism. This was essential as a graduate student (twice), writing paper after paper, ensuring that I always gave credit where credit is due. This is really a no-brainer for me. I can’t possibly claim to know all there is to know about a topic, and I’m not about to have egg on my face by someone calling me on it, losing my own credibility. To me, it’s arrogant not to quote sources because you’re claiming you have knowledge you don’t have. But I think the mindset of some who don’t quote has more to do with their own insecurities – “I don’t want to look stupid…I want to appear wise” being the thought-process. In fact, when you can defer to someone else who has the knowledge and expertise, that, in and of itself, shows you have wisdom.

    Women Walking In Wisdom’s Footsteps™

  17. I hat tip.

    I don’t know that I do it in every circumstance, but fairly often.

    I agree with everyone that if is ubiquitous then the hat tip is kind of pointless.

    I’m less likely to hat tip if the source said nothing more about it than “check this out!” (ie: I probably wouldn’t hat tip if I mentioned a link I saw in one of your Speed Linking posts, or if someone had bookmarked it on del.icio.us and posts their links on their blog).

  18. As Chris Lodge says…the internet’s memory is forever, so honesty may be even more important online than in real life. What’s printed online never goes away.

    I always give credit where it’s due, along with a link back. Even if the original source is print, but i found it online I would credit as

    Source: New York Times via abcblog

    and link to both sources.

    All the above sources are correct, but you’ve all missed one tiny item. It’s the polite thing to do!

  19. I always credit sources of stories. Also I try to make “unique” and “original” post as well and build quality content. Not so easy, but I think it’s a good way to build a great blog.

  20. I tend to credit sources except when I have read the same news over and over. Then what I choose to link to varies. Maybe I should always link to the first place that tips me off. The problem with that is that sometimes I am not compelled to give my take on the news until I have read about it on other blogs.

    That said, I think a blogger’s motto should be, “When in doubt, link out.”

  21. In a situation like this I normally link to the original story and then add something similar to “Thanks to (link) for bringing this to our attention”.

    As has already been mentioned above, it frequently results in either a thank you note from the blogger or a link back to my blog.

  22. Yes, you have to give credit where credit is due. So many sites don’t do that and you can tell because you find duplicate stories in Google. Sometimes it actually is aggravating because as a reader, you want to know who the source of the content is.

    When I find a great story, I write about it and incorporate my thoughts, opinions, and write my own story based off the original. But credit and links are always published. If I don’t include the source to how I wrote my story, then I have nothing to back my story up.

  23. I always summarize the content. Add a few of my thoughts and ask users to visit the site whose content I summarized. Is this proper blogging etiquette?

  24. I’m with Chris Garrett on this one. Yeah, link to the original, but your “source” should get a nod, too.

    My little blog in my little niche is very near the end of the long tail, but even just doing that I’ve seen benefits (such as unsolicited links from other blogs) and virtually no downside.

  25. I try to credit the source… either with a quick via: link or by working it into the post with something like “I just read over on [source] that blah blah [original link].”

  26. I think that crediting sources of stories is very important, for many reasons. Some of these you’ve already covered here.

    1. You shouldn’t take credit for someone else’s work.
    2. It shows honesty towards your readers and your peers.
    3. It increases your exposure, due to the inherent interlinking nature of the web and specifically the blog format.

    The exception to this rule might be stories such as the iPhone, that are covered ad nauseum. Consider a blog post that references the iPhone, and then expresses your own completely original point of view. With such a story, it would be difficult to pinpoint your specific source of the iPhone announcement, since it’s literally everywhere.

    On the other hand, if your own story uses resources or a p.o.v. inspired by another site, then you clearly have a source that must be cited. In the case of your “borrowed” stories, I think this applies.

  27. I believe you should always credit the source. I like to fit a link at the beginning of a post that says something like “I picked this up from Blog X” or I put a “via Blog X” at the end of the post.

    Another thing to add is I think if you pick something up from a persons blog, you should add something to it when you write about on your blog – add an angle overlooked or ignored in the original post, cite another reference that broadens the points made, related personal experiences that enhance the original post, etc. Copying the same basic thing is just that…copying.

  28. In my case, I find it’s incredibly important to link back to my sources. I don’t know yet where my blog is going, but there might come a day when I have enough good content to do something un-bloggy with it. From the business perspective, I’ll need to know which ideas are wholly mine, which are copies & hacks, and which are simply inspired by other’s work. It’s also just plain good manners, I think.

    It also benefits my readers in a very tangible way when I share my sources. My site is about living a creative life with our children, and I try to emphasize the fact that imperfect is not a bad thing — who the heck has time to come up with a gazilion ways to keep kids entertained without looking outside themselves for inspiration?

    {sheesh… de-lurking on your site is so stressing}

  29. I always link back to the place I found the information as well as where it originally came from – I think it provides the readers with more than one view and helps me to track back, making my blog a sort of online reference center for me. Cheer, Liz

  30. I always link to the site where I discovered my information. As I write a gadget blog, it’s important to me to let my readers know where I get my information originally, as well as the product’s web site (which I’m sometimes unable to provide). I often paraphrase my sources, but I always put a link to the source and refer to them by name (even when it’s my husband). I’ve found that providing trackbacks will bring much more traffic to my site as well, which is never a bad thing.

  31. If you don’t want to use “via” find a way to work your source into the post in a natural way. For example, my latest post is about something Kevin O’Keefe wrote about, but I found it via ProBlogger. So I simply found a way to work Darren into the post in a way that added value to the content itself.

    When in doubt, link. It helps with seach engines, other bloggers, and most importantly, maintaining your credibility.

  32. It’s interesting that you bring this up– I was reading this one post on one blog that was basically three sentences than a snip out of this long article. What I really wanted to comment on was the article, so I did. But then I went back and wondered if I ever would have found the article without the blogger, so I added a hat tip.

    Two different blogs, similar but different points made about the source article. Interesting dilemmas.

    As a rule I try to send at least one link in the direction of the source, even if I feature the links to the originals more prominently.

  33. That’s what the trackback function is for, to give people credit for giving you an idea. We live in the conceptual age, don’t we? Ideas are currency.

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you do it, the important thing is that you do it. Maybe the idea came from a question or a comment posted in your blog — credit the writer behind it. Maybe it came from a conversation you had with someone — tip your hat to them with link (when available — yes, hard to believe for this crowd, but some people still do not have a blog). Maybe you read this post and want to expand it into a new direction — Darren should deserve the credit for inspiring you. Yes?

    Don’t we always thank everyone when we get an Academy Award or a Grammy? Don’t all the people who helped us, nurtured us, and sustained us deserve to share in our success? Don’t we feel much better when we’re transparent and invite the source of our inspiration into the spotlight?

    It makes sense to be generous. People respond to generosity much better than to a mindset of scarcity. You would too. And you can make new friends while you’re at it. I’m in favor of those, always. One can never have too many friends.

    How do you know when you should give credit? Forget the rationalization — listen to the little voice inside your heart. There’s room for everyone and the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

    Thank you, Darren. This was inspired and inspiring.

  34. Lance McDaniel says: 01/18/2007 at 6:22 am

    deleted for spam

  35. Always always credit my resource for one simple reason: respect the hard work another webmaster put it. Also, for legal aspect.

    I also believe that by linking back, you get more respect from the source owner as well and you WILL get links back from them. Often, they are related sites.

  36. I always, always, always credit my sources. It’s the least you can do. It’s a respect thing, and I don’t believe in taking credit for someone else’s work/research/analysis.

    In the same way, I expect to be sourced properly. I don’t like to see my material used with credit being given, and so I try to apply the same standards to other sites.

    One thing which especially frustrates me is to see mainstream sites and/or publications use my scoops without ever providing a link or mention back. I’m not even sure what the legalities are on that. When you break some news, does the news then belong to everybody? Can anyone then report on it with crediting the person or site that broke the news?

  37. Nice topic Darren. I try to give credit to the site that introduced me to the interesting thought/topic in the first place, and I always try to find different sources in addition to the original ones to offer more links also. It is sometimes ethical and like you pointed above, lets the original idea/thought/post author know that you found their post inspiring enough to write something about. That results in the original poster respect the person who linked to them more.


  38. The resources for your post should posted at all times. “Saving the user time” is just an attempt to justify presenting someone else’s ideas as yours.

    The benefits you mention in your post are simply the product of doing the correct thing.

    Darren, you reference one of the two bloggers in your post here. Out of curiosity, did you get a response from the other?

  39. As a lot of people say above, I link to the original or the piece I’m commenting on and throw in a [via blog] at the end when appropriate.

    The only exception is if I’ve seen the same story linked from several blogs. In that case I’ll try to find something in each of their posts to talk about or respond to. If they wrote nothing worth responding to, then there’s no reason to link to them.

  40. Andrew/Ken – the other person denied using my blog as a source of their posts – but strangely their posts stopped resembling mine the next day.

    Kanwai – I think that’s ok to do – especially if you add some of your own thoughts to it.

    Weefz – yes it can be a little difficult when you see a story in multiple places. In that case I try to link to the first one but it can get hard when you’re emailed with news, see it on blogs and even get press releases all on the same story while you’re in bed and then wake up wondering whether/how to credit the source of the story :-)

  41. Sometimes I acknowledge the source other times I don’t it really depends on the circumstance. At no time do I take the files and actual words from someones blog and try to make it my own, thats just not right.

  42. I link out as well, if in doubt. I mean, yeah I might want to credit the original source, but I wouldn’t have found out about it w/o the blog in question or maybe wouldn’t have seen it’s newsworthiness, besides. If in doubt, link out.

  43. Yes, I always cite my sources. I worked as an associate editor for eight years, and I know what plagerism is.

  44. Eek, Shawna! An associate editor? “Plagerism”? I’m nervous!

    Always cite, at the very least with a tiny “via xxWEBSITExx” link after the main direct link. It’s bad form not to, IMHO.

  45. Kwiz: “As a teacher, I emphasize to my students to always quote their sources when writing papers; anything less is plagiarism. ”

    It is the adult and responsible thing to do. I make it a point to give a simple link, if not to use a proper citation when writing.

  46. I credit the source and throw in the “via” when appropriate. I only leave off sources when it comes from a PR firm or such that don’t want to seem like the source.

    I will go out of my way to link back to sites that credit mine and have had people do the same. I find that many authors really appreciate being credited and will even share tips and scoops with sites they consider having a “Friendly” attitude.

  47. Always. I do know of atleast one site ( sourcing info from all over the place, but never crediting)
    I don’t think it is ethical. The fact is you rarely have sourced news, so why not link it back?
    Nice write up Darren.


  48. Quite honestly, I readily admit to posting stories from other blogs.

    But I have to say that in the overwhelming majority of those posts are set up in the following fashion:

    “I read an ARTICLE over at SITE about SUBJECT…etc etc etc”

    with ARTICLE linking to the actual original story, SITE linking to the blog where said article was read and if possible the SUBJECT link takes the reader to the most succinct explanation or definition of what SUBJECT is.

    The reason that I do this, and do it unabashedly, is that I’m a blogger in passing. My blog isn’t monetized, popular or read by many folks (if it’s read at all) outside of my close group of friends. As such, I don’t attempt to purport myself as being a “reporter”. One article might talk about my feelings about the irrationality of post 9/11 domestic law policy while the next might talk about how I’m tired of seeing commercials for “Primeval” during every commercial break on Comedy Central.

    It is my opinion that were I to develop a blog based on the “news” format, that I would struggle to avoid doing the copy+paste, move stuff around approach. I mean, there are tech news site that drive me batty due to the fact that they seem to post the exact same articles as one another. Given that in a day there are usually a limited number of tech news “stories” but c’mon. I feel that if you’re writing to attract, and maintain, an audience, you should be bringing something original and insightful to the table.

    With all of that however, the old cliche still reminds me, “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery”.

  49. […] Darren Rowse, the ProBlogger, noticed that some other blogs were taking stories he had published, rewriting them and posting the new versions to their own blogs. These other blogs linked to Darren’s original sources, but did not link to Darren himself. […]

  50. Credit, credit, credit
    leads to
    credibility, credibility, credibility

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