In my last post I presented the case for the use of collections as an editorial layer on top of a metadata driven site. One of the most common types of collection in online journalism are lists of links around a story – commonly referred to as link journalism.
Link journalism is linking to other reporting on the web to enhance, complement, source, or add more context to a journalist’s original reporting.
How can these collections of links be best used to serve the core principles of journalism?
The BBC’s use of external links to cite sources has been criticised for not linking to the original source of a story.
Paul Bradshaw has written an excellent post on the subject and makes the following point:
In an online environment one of the biggest signals in how we build a picture of the trustworthiness of someone or something is the links surrounding it. Who is that person friends with? What does this website link to? Who gathers here? What do they say? What else does this person do? What is their background, their interests, their beliefs?
I find the distinction between the curation of content and the curation of context very useful. Paul highlights the value of using links to place the story in its context as opposed to merely pointing to similar content about the same story. In addition it also puts the source referenced by the BBC into context by saying something about how the BBC regards it.
BBC Journalism currently use several quite different strategies for linking to both related BBC stories and other sites on the web. The most common are the ’see alsos’ and the ‘related internet links’ that appear on stories.
These links are picked by the journalist as related in some way to the story. Generally the links sit in a template that is reused for similar stories so they tend to be fairly non-specific, often linking to home pages of sites rather than deep links to sources. They typically perform poorly in terms of click-throughs.
A different strategy is illustrated by the BBC Sport football gossip column. The column is created daily and provides an overview of the day’s football gossip. Short summaries of stories are written and then published with a link to the full story in the original source.
In comparison to the related internet links on story pages a significant amount of BBC Journalism’s external referrals go through this one page. The gossip column is a testament to how external links can be used in a meaningful and useful way.