The Pure Power of In-Bound Links

Last Updated Jul 6, 2009 1:18 PM EDT

Continuing our exploration of the value of links to news sites, today we hear from blogger Simon Owens, who writes about the media at Bloggasm. Last Friday, he posted about NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard's unresponsiveness to an invitation from Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald to appear on his radio show to discuss NPR's policy to label the politically-loaded euphemism, "enhanced interrogation techniques," as torture.

Shepard had defended the public radio network's policy in a column last month.

Owens' take on the controversy resonated with somebody over at the Huffington Post and he got a prominent link on the Post's home page as a result. Bingo! Bloggasm was off to the races; as of this morning, Owens reports he has gotten over 37,000 referrals via that one link.

The context for this discussion are two recent posts, and particularly the 20 or so comments threaded behind them:

Posner Advises Press to Commit Business Suicide
The Bleeding Edge of Media Business Models.

The debate revolves around whether sites that aggregate links, like the HuffPost and Google News, are harming content creators like The New York Times or Simon Owens. My experience parallels that of Owens, although with somewhat more modest numbers.

A piece of mine posted as the rebellion broke out in Iran last month, Twitter Users Put CNN to Shame on Iran Riot Coverage, was linked to prominently by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone on the company's blog. It had sent me 15,682 new visitors through yesterday. (Thanks, Biz!)
There are legitimate concerns by the "other side" in this debate, and they involve protecting content creators from have our work essentially stolen by others, who in turn benefit from our work but don't compensate us. I'm in agreement that there is a slippery slope to allowing links that take our headlines with abstracts so lengthy as to make it unnecessary for readers to visit our version to get whatever value they are seeking.

But in at least these two cases, the HuffPost link to Bloggasm, and Biz Stone's link to Bnet Media, we have no complaints whatsoever -- just a whole lot of gratitude. As Salon CEO Richard Gingras notes, "A further dimension of this is recognizing that inbound links from Google Search, aggregators, social recommendation sites, and social media sites are vital sources of new uniques. One may not keep them all as regular users but you at least get a crack at them."

(In a related -- but very sad -- piece of news about the power of social media to drive both traffic and social activism, Eric De La Cruz, the young man whose need for a heart transplant ignited an international fund-raising effort over Twitter in May, passed away on the Fourth of July. Doctors explained to his family that he had arrived at the hospital two years too late to be able to be saved. Those two years were spent by the family fighting the red tape that strangles health care in the U.S. -- D.W.)

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.