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Why doesn’t Online Main Stream Media link?

Posted By Darren Rowse 18th of July 2007 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

I’ve often wondered – but why don’t many online main stream media sites link when they refer to blogs or websites?

I find it slightly ironic – particularly when they write about new media/blogging.

I’m not sure if it’s laziness, fear of losing readers from a site or if it’s just a different philosophy of web design – but I would have thought if a site was seriously interested in providing useful content for their readers that they’d hyperlink mentions of other websites.

Inspiration for this post – Business Week’s How Top Bloggers Earn Money (I resisted the temptation to just give you a dead link). Thanks for the mention in the profiles BW, it was a real surprise as I’d not heard anything about it until I saw Shoemoney write about it (he’d not heard anything about it either). I really should get a new set of head shots taken!

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. Because they are afraid of bloggers.

  2. I think it’s because they don’t want users to leave their site. Most of the times when users click an external link, chances are that they won’t come back to the site where the link was because they get sucked into the site they click on.

  3. I think it has something to do with the fact that MSM (mainstream media) doesn’t link back because it’s like they are endorsing the blogger. If they send their readers offsite, it’s almost like they unofficially endorse the target imo. That can be a liability for some big news outlets.

  4. Maybe they don’t want their readers find new sources of information. Big websites often have nontechnical users who don’t know about the rest of the internet.

  5. I used to work for online MSM and there were quite strict rules about linking out, but generally we would have a “related links” part and link to a site if it was specifically mentioned in the article (unless there was something particularly controversial about it).

    To me, that was one of the advantages of working for an online news site. We could actually link to useful sites. As a user it seems pretty ridiculous for a site to profile another site and then fail to link to them. Rather old-fashioned.

  6. This has always been a major frustration for me. Whenever I post news on my blog/website I always try to make a point of providing links a source to what I am talking about. I have never understood especially when a site like CNN – http://cnn.com with talk about a tech story or someone web site and not even provide a link.

    The interesting thing is I was a mass communication major in college so I did take classes in journalism, advertising, public relations, news writing and media law so I do know what one should and shouldn’t do when sharing information. I have also worked on college newspapers both as a writer and photographer and before I started my own business I worked for a local feature magazine for a short time until it folded. I basically say this to point out I myself as a “new media” person who runs a company that develops both web and small print solutions for small businesses try my best to abide traditional media principles while at the same time taking advantage of the easy way to cite sources provided by internet technology. In fact I first got “into computers” in the early 90’s not to “be a geek” but to take advantage of a tool to share my writings, photography and designs of course I learned a lot of “geek skills” in the process.

  7. So that bloggers will write about the fact that they don’t link :)

  8. “fear of loosing readers”

    Yes, they might be loosed upon the dangerous interwebs.

  9. I have friends who work for major newspapers and I’ve worked for numerous minor ones myself. They just don’t “get” the internet yet; since they don’t “link out” in the pages of their “dead tree” versions, they generally don’t yet see the need to do so online. Along with it, yes, they fear losing readers, but it probably has more to do with avoiding links that could conflict or compete with those to paid advertisers’ sites.

  10. Some software that many news websites use simply don’t have any function to provide for external links within news articles.

  11. after reading the article a few days ago I wondered too why they didn’t link directly or give notice to the featured bloggers

  12. I have to agree that they fear losing readers to another site. They want to keep you on their site, viewing more ads. It’s the same reason they break stories into multiple pages – more ad impressions.

  13. Because at the end of the day MSM is about controlling information, not connecting their readers to other sources.

  14. I think that they are afraid of losing more customers than they have been. There are a lot of things out there that compete for one’s time, and Newsweek would rather you read Newsweek in your spare time than someone else’s blog.

  15. I had a similar expierience with BusinessWeek recently. Not only did the writer not link to me in the article, he also condensed a half hour conversation into one sentence.

    It used to amuse me when the media would call for research. I now know that what I say will be taken out of context or it will be fit into the writers pre-conceived notion of the subject.

    I always assumed that the business press knew what they were writing about. After speaking with them more regularly during the last year, I am beginning to wonder if they are even qualified to comment on most of the topics they write about.

    Bloggers scare the mainstream media, because bloggers are typically experts on the topics they write about. Many bloggers, such as myself, are not great writers, but at least we understand the topics we write about. Most journalists have an outside perspective of the topics they write about, with little or no real world expierience.

  16. I agree with Michael, larger entities would rather not divert the readers attention elsewhere.

  17. Glad to see that I’m not the only one wondering this. I’m not sure it’s fear of losing readers really – perhaps it’s more a tech issue. Last time this happened to me I spoke to the reporter about it and they said that they were frustrated by it too but the backend people didn’t do it most of the time and that there was no real clear policy about it.

  18. I don’t blame MSM for not linking to blogs. Their readers expect to absord good quality content. Why should they split the informations to other blogs? When majority of blog posts are just something someone else has written, and the original source was rarely a blog. Yes, of course there are exceptions. The Bloggers are a medium, they might see us as a potential competitors. But I still dislike the policy of not linking to blogs..I just hope one day MSM will hold hand to Bloggers :D

  19. MSM not linking out on their websites show how out of touch they are. They know enough to get online, but really have little idea of how to use it effectively.

    Business Week – do you think your readers enjoy copying and pasting urls into their browser in order to visit the sites you’re talking about??? Seems like a pretty good way to frustrate your readers – perhaps they should be called Weak Business.

    What did shock me about this is that having spoken to or read posts like this from four of the bloggers profiled I’m yet to find one that was contacted about it:

    1. to use their images – what about copyright etc?
    2. to ask for an up to date quote – I don’t know when you wrote your FAQ page where they took the quote from but I doubt it was less than 12 months ago.
    3. to fact check – I wonder how many errors there are if they didn’t even ask bloggers to confirm them?

    Isn’t mainstream media always talking about the dangers of blogging being that we don’t have any editorial standards??

    While I’m sure Darren is not minding being included, I know that if it were me I’d be kicking up a bit more of a stink about some of these issues.

    Sloppy work Business ‘Weak’.

  20. I have often, and recently, had this same conversation with fellow music bloggers. My assumption is fear of their readers moving to the blogs (permanently) should they find them superior to the mainstream press they had always read.

  21. Good question. It’s something I’ve been complaining about for years now. Read a story story on CNN for example talking about some companies website but they never give a link to it.

  22. I think that mainstream media just doesn’t realise how valuable an outbound link can be to a blogger they’ve interviewed

    And even when a journalist especially puts in a link to your site, in my experience the link doesn’t get “passed on” when the article gets syndicated to other news sites

    For example eg: my 2007 cricket world cup article got linked to by a Sydney Morning Herald article but when it was copied by the Melbourne Age, Brisbane Times and Stuff.co.nz they copied the visible text of the article not the html including my link :-(

  23. Couldn’t it be because main stream media don’t want to give their readers useful content but just want to make money?

  24. ‘Why don’t main stream media link when they refer to blogs and web sites?’ I suspect it’s fear of losing readership and fear of bloggers in general.

  25. From my experiences and assuming it isn’t a tech blog highly successful bloggers don’t like much. I read the Hobotraveler blog no link there never, I used to read Steve Pavlina no link and no comments as well.

  26. I’ve talked about this issue with a webmaster from a large institutional site. The reason they don’t is that they want all the links to come inward and not go outward, a sort of final destination. It’s a Web 1.0 way of deluding yourself into thinking you’ll keep viewers. Many of these sites are also set up so that a large number of people can submit content without changing the templates and architecture of the site and management doesn’t want everyone linking without approval from the top. Linking out also requires approval from either senior management or a committee for every single link.

  27. It’s not just when they do not link to you when being interviewed for it or so, they just don’t even link when they take the news from your site… I had Billboard, Rolling Stone, Q, NME, Fox etc ripping the news on our blog literally and then using it as ‘exclusive’ cuts on their respective websites.

    So far linkbaiting from major magazines…

  28. No links. Weird…

    I saw that slide show the other day. Very neat. Congrats on being included!

  29. To make matters worse, some papers have a no-link policy. When linking to the Toronto Star, you have to buy a license before you can even cut and paste a url.

  30. I’ve just bumped into this problem a day or two ago. ITV is the oldest commercial TV chain in England and I’ve just started using its forums to discuss their Tour de France coverage (which I also discuss on my own site). Someone asked why the satellite broadcast had better pictures than the terrestial and I posted about the different reported bitrates (3Mbps satellite vs 2Mbps terrestial), with links to sources. It vanished. I reposted. It vanished again.

    After the second time, I discovered that links to other web sites are flat-out banned on their forums. I guess they have an extremely stupid auto-deleter post-moderating their forums. I’ll not be using that site much any more!

    Just to highlight the insanity of that policy, there’s a lot of discussion of rival television stations on the forums, but you can’t even link to a full listing of ITV’s own coverage.

  31. The neanderthal notion of being a final destination, etc., is part of it, but mainly, it’s what a previous commentor said about the software that takes the text and automatically formats it for the web. One of the “selling points” for that software would have been: no outbound links. You can also bet that software isn’t the latest and greatest, either.

    And people wonder why newspapers are dying.

  32. Actually, I believe CNN is starting to link to blogs (not in stories though). They put a new thing at the bottom of stories that you can click on to see what blogs are writing about that particular story. They use sphere, a new service (I haven’t gotten invited yet).

  33. Why doesn’t mainstream media link? Maybe they assume that everyone will Google every site address.

    I mean, BW is so out of touch that they’re reporting that Fugly means “fantastically ugly.” So them thinking that it’s better to have someone google something doesn’t seem too weird in comparison to me.

    They’re also including a blog that is a money-losing venture on a list of how blogs make money, and are seriously inflating revenue for some. I can believe that icanhascheezburger makes almost ~$6000 (if not more!), I can believe the figures for gothamist and problogger to some extent, but honestly i don’t think there’s any way Mashable is raking in $166K per month. I just think that figure is very unreasonable.

    BW seems to be adding up all of the possible yearly revenue for some sites, taking published amounts for other sites and being overly general in others. I found the article to be a bit lacking honestly.

  34. I think Darren hit on it in his comment above. I think it is the difference between having tech people doing the posting, like happens at many newspapers large and small and having the person writing the article, the one who understands who out links would make sense, doing the posting, as would be the case with most blogs, of course. It’s a logistics thing. Not a good excuse really, but I believe an accurate one.

    Oh and the whole fear of readers leaving the site thing too.

  35. I hope you put a nofollow on the link to the BusinessWeek article :-)

  36. Agreed. it is all about controlling traffic. Or trying to. In my popular sites, they got the traffic from blogs and non-traditional media. Even though it was featured or mentioned in many major media magazines, newspapers and sites. They just don’t link. And since it is a trend in that industry it isn’t like any of them area about to change any time soon. None of them are trend setters.

  37. Google’s pagerank system essentially boils down to Links In minus Links Out equals PageRank (plus some other fluff in there).

    The sites are trying to both
    a) Keep their PageRank up *rolls eyes*
    b) Keep their visitors on their site.

  38. Maybe they don’t link out to niche sites unrelated to business because of search engine algorithms??? Maybe they’re afraid it’ll affect their PR or how their site is categorized on search engines…

  39. Arrogance. Whether that has led to not figuring it out or policy or whatever…it all mainly stems from their arrogance.

    In other words, if as a MSM you aren’t reacting and then adapting proactively to what the underground tremors are from (in this case the online world of bloggers) then you are denying they are having any real or lasting impact. Right? That’s arrogance.

    It’s only been recently, in the last year, that MSM has had their journalists start to blog themselves because if they plan to stay relevant then that is what they have to do.

    My guess would be that this is a 1st generation iteration of how MSM will respond to the whole online world of media and marketing. There will eventually be a melding of the two worlds because online is too relevant. Sort of like what happened with the dot com bust in 2000 and it came roaring back with much more relevance….there won’t be a bust the way there was but there will be adaptations initiated by the big money.

    At one point purchases online growth was so significant through 2006 that it often went into the triple digits in percentage growth, right? Now it’s slowing….more people are using it for research and then going back to the stores to do the purcashing. So it has ebbs and flows as businesses figure out how to manage the compass that guides the consumer.

    This post is too long, sorry. Initially I was just going to say one word, arrogance…but here I am paragraphs later still talking. But I have to make one last point…being an observer of trends, I am seeing that the more successful of bloggers are moving to offline MSM events as well….so we are at the beginning of that movement, of the two worlds melding, happening. Don’t you think?

  40. I think main stream media is on the decline across the board and are afraid of losing visitors. They are always new upstarts and they know they will be replaced.

  41. I guess, they are not writing for the internet, but for the print media. Then they just post the text to the internet. What suprises me, is that not a lot of print media companies have adjusted to the internet. This is one of the typical examples – no links included in the article. So let’s see if this is ever going to change, I say yes it will.

  42. There has been a lot of good feedback I agree with so I don’t have a whole lot to add.

    As far as tech people doing the posting- I’m far from a techie, I majored in fashion and am now a SAHM yet I know how to do simple programming. If someone is a web publisher knowing those things is the responsible thing to do. I agree with one of the commenters that this is sloppy and they should realize that this could better legitimize their information and increase reporting accountability.

    I also think that because MSM has issues with the growth of blogging and the grasp it is biting into from their monopolies, they fear linking to blogs will give their stamp of approval, or legitimize blogging as an information source.

    I watch MSM on t.v. but most of my news comes from blogs.

  43. Chris (comment #25) has it correct. I work in the entertainment industry where linking out is a major deal. CMT.com (a Viacom company) for example has the web 1.0 business plan meaning if we link out they won’t spent time on our site hence less ad views. Its the dead end subdivision you come in and don’t go out. They don’t realize that making the content more useful works better than just dead ending people to keep them on the site.

    The company I currently work has a so called “Cyber Liability Policy” which can’t link to any website unless we have a working relationship with them. Otherwise we have to contact each website and get written or email permission to link. Then we have to submit it to our lawyers to get the “approval to link” on record. Bunch of BS which caused me to stop linking to any other sites. Easier not to link than go through all the work. Call me lazy but its just not worth the ROI at that point.

    On my personal blog The Nashville Feed I tried to link to articles and any reliant information that would help my readers learn or understand the topic more. I like it better this way.

  44. Based on our experiences, MSM have been afraid of linking because a link is still viewed by them as an ‘endorsement’ and the legal departments seem to go ballistic if a MSM article links to a site that ‘may’ contain anything that they wouldn’t want to be seen endorsing. It is very backward in thinking and the majority of the time is completely unfounded.

  45. It may be the whole “endorsement thing.” It makes me wonder if it’s also link hording.

  46. It makes no sense. I posted about this a while back:

    While I could try to understand how the online version of a print publication wouldn’t have links, I still fail to understand how online only publications don’t link – even when they’re reviewing another website!

  47. Years ago the collective editorial staff represening several major tradtional news publications made a decision about linking out that was probably based on fear of the unkown. It became the de facto standard ever since, kind of like the AP style sheet, and traditional rank and file journalists don’t get to question editorial decision. Another example of old school thought getting it wrong early and having an adversion to change policy. Probably started at the NY Times or Wall street and filtered down from there…Just a thought

  48. The Online Main Stream Media don’t link because they are bastards. They will get sick if they bring traffic to any other site than theirs! :))

  49. The times in the UK is linking more since they have their new platform


    and not just on their blogs.

  50. As a member of the “main stream media,” there is a movement toward linking to blogs, however gradual. Witness the use by the WSJ of listing related blogs with their online stories. The reasons for there not being a quicker adoption of linking out is many.

    1. It’s not about blogs. We wouldn’t link out to the NYT, let alone a blog. Just as a news org will write “Google bought Microsoft today, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal reported Friday,” most news orgs would simply mention “…,according to the blog fluffy.com.”

    2. Blogs have not risen to the point of a news source. Sources now are government/corporate officials, the wires and other news orgs. Right now, blogs are more lead generators.

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