Links essential to trust of your online news source

Say all you want about citizen journalism, fast-breaking news on Twitter that is way faster than the mainstream media, etc – when it comes to one online news source above all that you trust, that source for me is the BBC.

It’s not perfect, though, in one particular area – linking. One of the great things about digital content on the social web is how easy it is to connect content to other content anywhere else that a hyperlink can reach to. Historically, the BBC and other mainstream media organizations haven’t really embraced the openness of linking and sharing, perhaps due to proprietary views about content ownership, possible copyright or other intellectual property rights concerns and not giving attention to anything on a competitor’s website.

The BBC began opening up in this regard in 2008 with an experiment using the Apture service which I use on this blog too. Today it’s becoming common to see links to content elsewhere in more news reports and features on the BBC News website.

Now the BBC is taking linking to a higher level as its new Guide to linking on the BBC News website explains (and embedded below).

Some highlights that caught my eye:

  • Links essential to online journalism
  • BBC strategy to double outbound links from 10m to 20m a month by 2013
  • Links well suit unique selling point for BBC News: our expertise
  • We’re also well placed to link to the best of the web without fear or favour
  • On external websites look beyond homepage to pages of specific relevance
  • Inline linking in news stories is OK when it’s to a primary source
  • In news stories inline links must go to primary sources only (eg scientific journal article or policy report (1 or 2 per story; avoid intro)
  • In features inline links should be of direct editorial relevance but don’t have to be primary sources
  • In Q&As and explainers inline links can go to any external or internal content for ‘further reading’ or adding value
  • In blogs different rules can apply – speak to blogs team if in doubt
  • Think: What will add most to readers’ understanding?

The first and last bullet points – "Links essential to online journalism" and "Think: What will add most to readers’ understanding?" nicely encapsulate the significant focus on the BBC’s new guidelines about linking: it’s about the reader, isn’t it?

Undoubtedly there’s hard commercial sense about this as well, but to me it’s mostly about trust – transparency from a news-gathering and -reporting organization in what they publish online and how they do it adds hugely to your sense of ‘do I trust what I’m reading and who’s saying it?’ when right there on the page you have links to related information or content that helps you verify what you’re reading as trusted content. So a parallel conclusion you would likely reach, too, is trust in the journalist or person who wrote that content with links.

Links are essential to online journalism, says the BBC, and I agree. Add ‘trust’ as well.

(Via Online Journalism Blog and The Guardian Digital Content Blog.)

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Paul Seaman

    Trust has more to it than links…. it runs much deeper than that.The eyes have it! Mainstream online media is read by millions. Mistakes cannot survive for long under such scrutiny. Mistakes on a blog, however, or on most social media posts, are read by the relatively few. The chances of error are increased when the entire audience knows less than the bloggers/reporters do. Add to that the BBC’s and mainstream’s media’s, rightly, self-interested obsession with their reputation…the wisdom of crowds is with mainstream media and even more so with the mainstream’s commitment to maintaining the crowd’s trust. I say that as somebody who takes pride in blogging…but also as somebody who recently mistakenly – accidentally – misreported something and who was not corrected by my audience….but had I published that same piece on the BBC, my mistake would have been exposed within minutes (my link was a spoof, but a credible one!)

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