Linked in

A few posts ago, I discussed the importance of SEO in making articles, blogs, etc more discoverable on the web. But there’s also an equally, if not more, valuable tool: links.

Whereas SEO is the kid who shouts to get attention, links are the popular kid who everyone wants to be friends with. And the more people linking to your blog, then the more networks you are a part of and the more traffic that will come your way.

As Jeff Jarvis has explained, “Links are the currency of the new media economy.

“Online, content is valueless if no one sees it: content that isn’t linked is the tree that fell in the forest no one heard (or turned into print).”

Links are the new currency, and seeing as actual currency doesn’t seem to hold any weight online these days (see the New York Times’ failure to make money from charging people to access its content – people simply won’t pay when they can get news for free), links are the main lingua franca.

Since the blogosphere took off, the link network has exploded and as you can see from the diagram below showing the vast number of links that now exist, conversations are pinging all over the globe. The challenge for newspapers is how to get people linking to them and tap into the conversation.

As Adam Tinworth said, some newspapers and magazines have isolated themselves from the link network by only allowing subscribers access to their content. The vast number of internet users dwarfs the number of subscribers, and publications are losing out by not tapping into the online conversation. By making content more accessible and having people link to them, they are driving traffic towards their content, thereby bumping up their advertising revenue.

This is exactly the lesson the New York Times learnt to its cost. As Jeff Jarvis commented in the Guardian, by putting content behind a pay barrier, “It took the paper’s best-known writers out of the conversation and reduced their influence worldwide. Worse, it diluted the paper’s Googlejuice by shutting off search and bloggers’ links to much of its content.” No one was linking to any of the articles because they weren’t freely available.

But on the other hand, abolishing subscription-only content is closing off a source of revenue when money is so crucial in these hard times. Where else is the money going to come from? Advertising? As Carolyn McCall said at the Society of Editors Conference in Bristol last weekend, 20 per cent of advertising is shared by all media companies in the UK, compared with Google, who takes 40 per cent alone. And as all the media platforms are fighting over advertising, that doesn’t leave a lot to go round.

So how else can the media make money out of the internet? This is the multi-million dollar question right now, and if I had the answer, I would probably be sitting in a plush penthouse office somewhere…

For now, though, media outlets should focus on getting their content as widely read as possible. Users now only arrive at a destination either through it coming up in search (SEO) or because someone has recommended it to them (links), and these are two of the most powerful tools in which media companies can generate readership.

A final quote from Jeff Jarvis: “We in media must open ourselves to the public in every way possible. Tearing down walls – pay, registration, archive, or just obtuse navigation – is only the start of it.”

Forget stocks and shares, it’s time to start investing in links.

© Melanie Hall 2017