Two-Way Street

Links: More Important Than We May Think

One of our bloggers came to me the other day to complain about some of the links in our technology news stories. For some subjects, she suggested, it'd be better to insert links to her blog since she covers the particular subject more closely than the other bloggers who typically get listed.

Reporters pushing their turf is nothing new. But it got me thinking about links. Everyone in the Internet biz knows how important they are for driving traffic. Deals are routinely made between Web sites on the basis of links exchanges. Any Web site worth its pixels makes sure to seed its stories with links to keep readers clicking (and ads downloading).

But links are an editorial element too. They can provide useful additional information to the reader, of course. And they can lend some balance. In our write-ups of CNBC guests touting certain stocks, for example, we try to insert links to other CNBC guests and commentators who may have a different opinion.

They also may lend some editorial nuance to how readers perceive a story. If you have an opinion piece arguing a certain point of view, inserting a lot of links endorsing that point of view and the author will probably lend an air of credibility to the argument, even if a reader doesn't click them.

Unfortunately I find a lot of journalists, particularly ones transitioning from print to online, don't think that much about links. Even firmly entrenched online journalists sometimes treat links as throwaways. But as Internet journalism develops and becomes the more prevalent of news platforms, we're probably going to have to consider links more as an editorial tool rather than a simple incidental or traffic driver.

And if it starts with territorial reporters trying to defend their beat ... so be it.