Frank Rich has been a New York Times columnist for at least five years. Scott Rosenberg recently twittered about a post by Edward J. Delaney, in which Delaney interviews Rich about a practice that sets Rich apart from nearly all of the other Times columnists: he includes hyperlinks in his work.
Adding links, he says, Ã¢â‚¬Å“came about very informallyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d say the biggest single breakthrough was to realize, as my assistant Benjamin Toff realized, we have the capability to insert links into the pieces easily, electronicallyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦without going through the bureaucracy. If every link had to go through a bureaucratic procedure that was time-consuming on deadline, we couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it.
As Scott notes, it’s shocking that, 15 years into the web’s popular existence, we’re still talking about this issue. Rich says that “columnists at The Times are free agents”, and yet hardly any of them link to other stuff. Bizarre, eh?
There is hope, however. Mathew Ingram points out that the New York Times has started linking to third-party sources from its front page.
Both Delaney and Ingram reference smart media thinker Scott Karp, citing two articles on the value of outbound links.
What gets me is the attempts to have “link policy” about what kind of text you must use on outbound links (from the linked-to site) along with pages that direct you to a page that says “we don’t endorse this link” before taking you to a link. The law (and the legal department) has a long way to go in this respect; it doesn’t seem to recognize that a link is simply citing an address – the mall is on 123 Street Blvd – but you don’t have to drive there if you don’t want to, and it’s no guarantee of the experience you’ll have once there.
Part of the problem is also that most writers still think in terms of print, and you can’t hyperlink print, so they don’t hyperlink when it gets put on the web. Then, too, if they link too much we might think they’re bloggers…
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