Links improve diversity and analytic depth

To the question “Is the Ash Cloud dangerous to flights?” Charlie Beckett writes that the honest answer is “I don’t know.” Journalism, tasked with sifting through complexity to find answers, is sometimes presented with a situation so chaotic that it defies the possiblity of deriving a correct answer. Beckett points to the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano as a perfect example of this type of event. But, buried in that chaotic ash, Beckett finds light in the “space of online.”

One of the positive aspects of digital journalism is that it allows the media to acknowledge this complexity. The space of online allows newsrooms to give a greater diversity of fact and opinion and more depth in analysis – if only by linking to sources.

Make sure to read Beckett’s full post, Complexity and the Media: Clegg and the Ash on the Polis Director’s Blog.

Image courtesy of Óli Jón via Flickr.

Links are four times more important than social

News consumers care about “links to related material” more than any other feature on news sites according to  the Understanding the Participatory News Consumer report (by Kristen Purcell, Lee Rainie, Amy Mitchell, Tom Rosenstiel and Kenny Olmstead) published March 1, 2010 as part of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

News participators care about all news site features more than online news consumers

The ability to share news was the second most important, but “following news sites via social networks” came in at the bottom of the list. Twice as many “news participators” found links important, and four times as many “other online news consumers” considered links an important feature.

Should news organizations and journalists focus less attention on gathering an audience on social networks and more attention on providing links?

In an exercise of irony, this post contains no links to related materials. To add to the irony, you can follow me on Twitter @ksablan.

Posterous and WordPress are magical URL converters

Last year, Steve Rubel waved goodbye to blogging and introduced many people to The Steve Rubel Lifestream, powered by Posterous. Since then, Posterous’ traffic has skyrocketed, possibly assisted by  Austin Statesman’s choice to use it to power their A Day in the Sun project.

I don’t intend to switch to Posterous anytime soon (I agree with Mark Krynsky’s thoughts on Posterous as a lifestreaming service), but I did select it recently when I created Freedom Communication’s Social Freedom blog, mostly because of the ability to create posts via email from multiple contributors.

The magic

In the two weeks of using Posterous, a rarely mentioned Posterous feature has totally impressed me. It magically (okay, “programmatically” might be the factually correct word here) transforms web addresses into pictures, videos and audio players.

I’ve created a post on my personal Posterous blog to illustrate this feature in an admittedly overstated way.

The magic is that I didn’t have to download, crop or resize any of the images that you see there. I didn’t have to embed an MP3 widget and tell it where to find the audio file. I didn’t have to copy and paste any embed codes for the videos. I didn’t even have to tell Posterous the width of those videos or images. See, I told you. It’s magic.

Bonus WordPress magic

Much to my surprise, previewing this blog post showed met that WordPress also has similar URL-transforming tricks hidden up its already-powerful sleeves.

I now invite all blogging pros to chime in with “how did you not know about this” comments below.

For those who were as shocked about some of this as I was, I’ve copied and pasted what I typed into the Posterous example. Here, you can see how it turned out in WordPress:

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If news organizations blocked Google this morning

The idea of newspapers blocking Google from indexing their sites has become quite a topic of discussion recently, so I used the search engine this morning to look for some popular items. These screenshots help to illustrate how much Google relies on news sources for its best search results.

Obama China

Almost every entry for Obama China came from a  news organization.

Google search results for Obama China

Shuttle Atlantis

Aside from the block of news results at the top of the page, no news organizations ranked near the top of this search.

Google search results for shuttle Atlantis

Edward Woodward

This time the block of news results were lowered to the fifth listing on the page. Aside from that, no news organizations appeared.

Google search results for Edward Woodward

Groats disease

News companies didn’t appear on this page at all. Google didn’t even include a block of news results this time, which makes sense for this made-for-TV fictional medical condition.

Google search results for groats disease

Google wouldn’t lose much

Shift your eyes away from the main search results and look to the right side of those screenshots. That’s where Google makes it’s money with AdWords … and that spot is blank in three of the four examples above.

Of course, this is just one set of randomly chosen samples, so please take it all with a large grain of salt and share comments below to explain how Google’s business would suffer if it couldn’t link to news sites.


These recent developments prompted this post:

  • Rupert Murdoch might start blocking Google from indexing News Corp sites.
  • Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis agrees with Murdoch’s logic and thinks top news sources should also charge Bing for exclusive rights to index their content.
  • TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington says Calacanis’ idea “would shift the balance of power away from search engines and to the content sites – if they could pull it off.”
  • CUNY journalism professor Jeff Jarvis thinks other news publishers wouldn’t join Murdoch’s efforts. Instead, they would “celebrate the chance” to pick up some of the Google rankings that News Corp would sacrifice.
  • Back a TechCrunch, Mike Butcher reports that Microsoft recently held a “secret meeting” with newspaper publishers. Details of that meeting were not known.

For some Google perspective, make sure to read Danny Sullivan’s interview with Josh Cohen of Google News.