February 29th, 2008
The link journalism meme seems to have legs, based on the number of smart people who picked it up. Now it’s time to kick it up a notch, with the concept of NETWORKED link journalism, which can give journalists, collectively, the power of Digg and Google to direct huge amounts of traffic on the web.
But first lets look at how the concept of link journalism has been refined and supported:
The Drudge Report and other so-called link blogs, are really a subset of edited news aggregation, which has a great signal to noise ratio. Because the content is being vetted by an editor, readers can assume that they’re being directed only to relevant, non-redundant reporting (assuming they trust the editor). Link journalism is also something citizen journalists do a lot of, as when we share links via Google Reader like Robert Scoble, or via del.icio.us like Jemima Kiss. Bloggers and citizen journalists have long recognized the value of the link as a way to add context for readers and reinforce the points we make in our posts.
In providing links to diverse reports appearing in many different locations, TPM’s Marshall and his colleagues demonstrated the authority of their analysis that particular U.S. attorneys had been dismissed for political reasons.
Rather than relying on what Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel have famously criticized as the “journalism of assertion,” the new link journalism supplies evidence by backing up statements. Rather than making a phone call to a favorite and easy-to-reach expert or pundit, the journalist conducts research (imagine that!) and sources the facts by linking directly to them.
Jack Lail shares his own experience with link journalism:
I’ve been posting content that consisted of links to blogs for about a year and have for a long time included outbound links in stories. But those efforts are accelerating. I recently began experimenting with Karp on creating sets of links as content, some created by one person bookmaking relevant content and some as collaborative efforts of multiple bookmarkers.
The results are impressive. These outbound linking articles are strong traffic drivers because, I believe, they are providing a valuable, time-saving service to readers. On more than one day in the past week, a link “article” was the No. 1 “story” on the combined knoxnews/govolsxtra sites. And in the context of stories, they provide an additional rich layering of information.
All of these observations support the substantive journalistic value — and content value — of links in the context of a specific reporting effort, i.e. the link journalism equivalent of a news article.
But what’s the link journalism equivalent of the entire newspaper?
That’s were networked link journalism comes into play.
Networked link journalism is combining all the links created by journalists practicing link journalism to determine that most important, interesting, and newsworthy content that journalists are linking to.
In the simplest form of networked link journalism, one link = one vote. The stories with the most votes rise to the top.
This is the newspaper of the future — or rather the newspaper of today. This is how Google works, and how Digg works, by combining the power of many links.
What’s on a Google search results page? Or Digg’s homepage? A bunch of links.
But not just any links — the “best” links.
Why do some many people go to Google and Digg to click on those links? Why do they drive so much traffic on the web?
Because those links are determined by networks, not individuals — and networks are the most powerful force on the web.
An individual practicing link journalism can drive tens or, in the case of top link blogger/journalists, hundreds of visits for each link. The uber link journalists like Glenn Reynolds or Andrew Sullivan can drive a few thousand. Matt Drudge, the exception that proves the rule, can drive many thousands.
It’s all a matter of scale.
Journalists practicing link journalism in isolation can influence content distribution on the web (which most journalists are not doing at all), but only to a limited degree.
Journalists practicing networked link journalism, on the other hand, could have a huge influence over content distribution on the web — if enough journalists participated, they could drive enough traffic to crash servers.
We created Publish2 as a platform for networked link journalism, to give journalists and news organizations the power online that they once had offline — the power of distribution, the power of Google and Digg on the web — a power that, completely counter to the monopoly distribution model, journalism can only have collectively.
Remember the rule of networks on the web — the bigger the network, the more powerful it is.
There’s much more to this vision — such as a solution to the problem of rampant gaming that plagues Digg and Google, and the value of link journalism as content (as Jack has discovered) — but I want to see if the networked link journalism meme catches first. (If at first you don’t succeed, try another meme.)