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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. I try to credit within my posts, but sometimes a [via: X] does the job just fine. That said:

    Always, always, always credit. No discussion, no excuses. Any reason not to, especially something as pathetic as “it saves my readers time,” is nothing but a cop-out and a discredit to the practice. Everything comes from somewhere, and that is especially true for inspiration and blogging. Unless you’re writing from a leading news-breaker like Yahoo! or the New York Times, you aren’t the first link in the chain and you need to recognize and respect that.

    Anyone who breaks this rule doesn’t deserve to get bookmarked, period.

  2. I have always linked to the original source of the article, but I can now see the importance of linking to other blogs covering the same store. I had never thought about it from the perspective of helping to build a community of blogs in the same niche. Great advice as always.

  3. I always credit sites where I first heard about the story.

    In fact I also go looking for other people talking about the same subject and also link through to them.

    Memetrackers are an ideal way of finding great stories.

    What is important is to actually use your brain a little and express your own opinion, and not someone elses.

  4. Rob.nester wrote:

    “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.
    Rob, your method provides an excellent template. This is a very good way to do it and I’d like to see more bloggers doing it your way.

  5. I am not very sure of my approach. Most of my blog posts are put up based on the mini-research I do. I rarely write about ‘happening-news’. Even then, I see to it that I link to the source I initially found substantial information from and also any original source link, where ever possible.

    I know, I have been a bit of ‘insular’ blogger. Need to start reaching out a bit, but I am finding it hard to search for the right corner in the blogsphere to settle myself.

    Generally, I feel it is morally right to link out to the first source you found substantial information from, and also to the original (root) source link.

  6. […] Den altid læseværdige problogger Darren Rowse behandler ovennævnte spørgsmål i et indlæg under titlen “Crediting Sources of Stories – Do You Do it?“. DR’s egen praksis: at lænke til kilden for en oplysning samt til den der – evt. – gav tippet, denne praksis deles her på denne blog. Dette af flere grunde der egentlig burde være indlysende. Den efter min mening væsentligste grund handler om transparens og pålidelighed: Både bloggeren selv og eventuelle læsere får mulighed for at tjekke og kontrollere og søge yderligere information (tænk bare på et halvt år efter – hvor var det nu jeg fandt denne oplysning? ;-) og det burde være ligeså selvfølgeligt at man krediterer den blog, artikel, person etc. som har fungeret som formidler. Dels som en elementær anerkendelse, dels som en uddybende kvalificering af en henvisning (hvordan læser og reflekterer andre en given kilde?) og hermed som et led i den generelle “samtale” i blogosfæren. Apropro samtale: Af samme grund har jeg også sat denne blog op sådan at den altid laver en pingback dvs. automatisk forsøger at advisere kilder jeg linker til, om at disse har en indkommende link. (Og – når jeg husker det – får de også en Trackback ;-) […]

  7. Yes, I always credit my sources or quotes. I’ve found in doing that I’ve attracted the attention of the author; which means they’ve usually left a comment or emailed me. With my goal being “to engage in conversation with my readers”, I think crediting my sources is the best way to accomplish this.

  8. Occasionally, I’ve discovered a link on a site that would be inappropriate to cite. Not because it’s a porn site or something like that, but, say, because the site sometimes uses foul language or has unpredictable posts with non-standard content. When that happens, I use the link and send an email to the person who writes for the blog where I found it. Most people understand that you don’t want to send your business clients to a page that says, “Troy McClure is an ***hat” or “Today is International Talk Like A Porn Star Day”.

  9. But the main issue here is not whether these two bloggers are linking back to you – it is about using your structure, quotes and everything else that is building your articles. In the long run, they are shooting themselves in the feet, they are not credible, readers will get tired of them.

    Of course you have to link to the story and mention how you found it! It doesn´t have to be a link to everybody who is blogging the story unless you feel their take on it is worth reading. Just who took you to the story in the first place. And you are absolutely right: linking is making the net work, it can never hurt your publishing venture.

  10. I agree with your assesment of linking to both sources. The thing that makes blogs interesting and worth coming back to are the writers thoughts on the subject.

    If I wanted an unbiased news story I’d go to FOX….errrr nevermind, CNN.

  11. Linking to your source is an essential – I consider it to be one of the bedrock elements of this ol’ interweb. I’d like to think that if I churned out something link worthy, that someone would do the same to me. Web karma, baby, web karma.

  12. Pretty sad commentary on integrity and work ethic when a guy or gal excuses laziness and plagiarism by invoking his ‘care for his readers’.

    Quite frankly I’ve stopped reading a couple blogs because I’ve seen this kind of senseless copying.

    You better believe I credit always .. it’s not only the right thing to do but as many have pointed out it certainly lends credibility.

    To a couple folks in this chain who made mention of stories being written about by so many blogs … you’ve written yourself a prescription for 2007, take the medicine… if 20 folks have already written your post is unlikely to be of interest … unless you angle is unique. I passed up dozens of repetitious iPhone ‘me too’ posts … this morning I noticed one fellow out of the hundreds who found something unique .. Apple has made the iPhone without GPS or any easy provision for it … that’s a news item … the fact that Steve Jobs ranted on and on for a couple hours yet again is hardly news at all.

  13. Like a previous poster, I too learned early on always to credit not just your main source, but every source!

    Having completed an English degree and training as an English teacher, the practice of acknowledging sources was of utmost importance during my studies and it is something I still do religiously. It was also something I always impressed upon my own students. In fact it is just plain good etiquette!

    And just to prove my point, I was directed to this post by Angela at http://breastfeeding123.com.

  14. No question in my mind not only to link to the original – or at least the “original” as far as you know – and to the blog where you picked up on the story. If the intermediary has a particular spin I might try to point to that so it is more than just a “via”. In a post today I found that the points made by the “via” blog were actually just paraphrases of the original post – reportage without extra angles – so I just did a linked acknowledgement of the post I had read first. But if I get onto a story via, say, Google Alerts, I don’t acknowledge that.

  15. Darren, I think being widely read can make others to copy the content. I have had many instances where one of the blogs (in the same niche) regularly copied my content and re wrote it in his own words. Now it really pisses me off coz his blog takes all the credit and also if I claim it in public, it would harm me more than my competitors blog. The simple reason is that his blog is more popular than mine.

    In my opinion, if the person doesnt stop doing that, its time to payback. Scape his content and re write in your own words.

  16. Annoymous says: 02/04/2007 at 1:47 pm


    What about sites you know use your site as a source and don’t give you credit, which are then in turn supported and encouraged by major blogs to keep doing it. Sometime the major blogs wants article you wrote, they are always watching you site all the time for articles and instead of them linking to you, they wait for another site to take your article, the other sites does a complete rewrite and give you no credit to you and then the major blog links to them as a source instead of you. I know one really massive site that has been doing this for over a year and a half. Why do they do that? I think it is wrong.

  17. Always. And y’all should too.

  18. […] Crediting Sources of Stories – Do You Do it? (problogger.net, 2 saves) […]

  19. I think there’s always going to be some grey area but If I take it from a blog directly (though re-written and researched), I’ll always credit.

  20. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your reasons for giving credit.
    I think the problem is that as new bloggers we’re often afraid of “losing the reader”, which I think you have shown pretty convincingly is a short-term and misguided preoccupation which should be addressed through good content and design.
    I also think many of us when we start pay only lip service to the “wider community” aspects of accreditation within the blogging community. Experience shows of course that its one of the keys to our success.
    Thanks Darren.

  21. Rewriting news is very important to not fall in “Duplicated Content” that will harm your SEO strategy.

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