The person who thought of putting hyperlinks in a story probably thought it was a great idea. He or she wondered if there could be a way to find other Web pages that had information about a given topic or could provide more context to the story and embed them in the online copy. But to be honest, I’ve never really clicked on hyperlinks. In fact, I usually rollover them just to see where they link to. And really, linking to stories is no more than a courtesy to the reader. Sort of a handshake agreement that the writer or editor will aid your reading experience, right?
Maybe not. Mathew Ingram of GigaOM wrote and did a Storify last weekend on a spat between The Wall Street Journal and MG Siegler of Tech Crunch after he apparently broke the story Apple was buying app-discovery service Chomp. Siegler was miffed the Journal didn’t link to him in their own story after they confirmed of Apple’s purchase. Actually, miffed is a polite way to describe his rant on his own Tumblr.
Ultimately, Siegler thinks WSJ should have given him and Tech Crunch props for being first on the story, by at the very least linking to his story. What the Journal really did was re-report the story, probably based on what Siegler reported earlier in the day. I know I’ve written things that were later picked up by another publication without so much as a mention to me, and that’s OK. What’s not OK is to blatantly rip off someone’s story. That’s not what the WSJ did here.
Siegler’s probably overreacting, but Ingram raises a good question: What is good linking protocol? I say linking is to give readers reputable sources of information to provide greater context. Newspapers are notably stingy on doing this, usually linking just to their own stories about the topic. That’s not bad journalism, but it’s inconvenient. Mind you, I’m not one to click on links when in the middle of a story, but it’s worth going back and seeing what other information I can get out of an article. Linking is just polite, plain and simple. It’s one of those things that’s appreciated and helpful to some readers.
Siegler should really cool his jets and not boycott WSJ links out of spite. But WSJ and other outlets should do some more reporting and at least begin to acknowledge other outlets (and Tech Crunch is no small outfit) reporting news well ahead of them. That would be gentleman-like of them.