Can the web save newspapers?

Newspapers are under pressure, but could online link journalism be the answer? JOSH CATONE

Josh Catone SitePoint

By Josh Catone

For a long time now, Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 has been pushing the idea of link journalism; the idea that the more you point your visitors toward good content that exists on other people’s web sites, the more likely they are to come back to yours in the future.

This runs contrary to the attitudes that have pervaded the newspaper business for many years that say that you have to lock visitors into your site for as long as possible to make any money off them. See for example Fairfax’s SEO mistakes. But it is also the same principle that has made Google billions of dollars — the faster Google sends you away, the more likely you are to go back.

Karp published stats earlier this month showing that the Drudge Report, a site that is almost 100% links to outside sources, had the highest engagement with readers among all news web sites. Mainstream news sites are starting to take notice.

The New York Timestechnology section has been linking out to tech blogs using their algorithmic Techmeme-like “Blogrunner” software for months. The Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD site has Voices section that links out to hand picked tech blog posts.

Now the Washington Post has got in on the link journalism trend with the launch of Political Browser. Political Browser is a human-edited aggregator site that links not just to Washington Post blogs and content, but also to hand picked content on third-party sites.

As Eric Pianin, the politics editor for washingtonpost.com, told Scott Karp, Political Browser puts the Washington Post “stamp of approval” on selected stories. In essence, it’s a filter from a trusted source.

Pianin told Karp that the Post has been “fascinated” by the success of aggregator sites like the Huffington Post or Drudge Report, and could use their strong brand and reputation with their readers for reliability to get a piece of that action.

The Post’s page goes further than the Wall Street Journal’s or New York Times’ tech pages do in terms of linking out to trusted sources and associating their brand with their choice of linked-to content. And that could make a winner for the Post and other papers that emulate their model.

Karp is right that there is a huge opportunity in filtering. The barrier to creating and publishing content is low, and there is more content and information coming our way now each day than ever before. The result is information overload and a poor signal-to-noise ratio.

We’ve talked about credibility filtering as the future of content aggregation, but pointed out some inherent flaws in current wisdom of crowds models to get it done. Newspapers, though, which are already trusted sources of information for their readers, could become content aggregators and filter by credibility in a way that would really resonate with readers.

 

Josh is the lead blogger for sitepoint.com. He covers all things new and exciting on the web and is based in Rhode Island, USA.  

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