The Nieman Journalism Lab has an interesting report looking at the BBC’s new link policy for its online news site. While the conventional wisdom might be to link to as few other sites as possible, especially other news sources one might see as direct competitors (after all, why give your traffic away?), the BBC is actually planning to double the number of outbound links from its site by 2013.
As BBC News website editor Steve Herrmann puts it:
Related links matter: They are part of the value you add to your story – take them seriously and do them well; always provide the link to the source of your story when you can; if you mention or quote other publications, newspapers, websites – link to them; you can, where appropriate, deep-link; that is, link to the specific, relevant page of a website.
Herrmann is interested in making his site as useful as possible to its readers—and this makes a lot of sense. If someone wants to know more about a story than you are able to report, if you don’t drop the link in they’ll just go google it—and will be annoyed at the extra effort required.
But if you provide them with a good start on learning more themselves, they’ll remember you helped them out and be that much likelier to come back again.
Mike Masnick at TechDirt notes wryly that this happens right at a time when a number of UK news sites are starting to block links from other sources, and wonders if that means BBC links might be blocked too.
Regardless, I’ve long felt that linking to other sources, even “direct competitors” if a news site can have such a thing, is simply common courtesy—both to the other site, and to the readers who might want to know more. Links are the foundation of the Internet, and for a website not to use them makes that site that much less than it could be.