Semper Fi Link or Die

by Shannon Paul on September 12, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”@shannonpaul”]
Without links, the Internet would simply be content without context.

Before the advent of search engines, the first blogs weren’t much more than a simple collection of vetted links.

Whether we realize it or not – this forever changed the way we consume information.

The interesting thing is, even though I’ve been churning about this subject for quite some time, I happened to encounter two pieces of information on the same day (today) that got me all fired up about this:

  1. Darren Rowse’s post on ProBlogger questioning whether outbound links were a “endangered species”.
  2. A late encounter with a situation between Gawker Media and the Washington Post that led me down an extremely compelling link trail that all started when I read an excerpt from the story on The Licensing Plate.

In his post, Darren condenses several responses from people he received on Twitter as to why bloggers don’t seem to be linking so much anymore. To be fair, some answers indicated naivety to the general practice and etiquette of outbound links and this makes sense since so many newcomers are joining the party.

However, one of the other answers irritated me beyond belief:

SEO? Really?

Some admitted that they were saving their best link juice for the links that would either generate the most income or pass on the best link juice to partner sites. Um, okay. But:

  1. If you’re a blogger, doesn’t this really dilute your credibility as a resource? I’m not saying don’t link to your own stuff, but linking out to others is probably what got you where you are today if you’re really that important.
  2. Isn’t the power of people to provide human context to all of this information really what’s killing old-school journalism? If the Washington Post can’t afford to exist in a vacuum, how can you?

By the way, please go read Darren’s post on ProBlogger, especially if you’re one of the people who profess ignorance or naivety to the whole practice of outbound linking.

Now, onto the debacle between The Washington Post and Gawker Media.

Long Story Short

Ian Shapira wrote a feature story in the Washington Post about a consultant who teaches companies how to deal with Gen Y employees and clients. Hamilton Nolan from Gawker Media picked up the story and put his own snarky spin on the story.

Ian Shapira then posts an article titled, The Death of Journalism (Gawker Edition) with the title tag, How Gawker Ripped Off My Newspaper Story.

In it, Ian admits:

  • The story on the Gawker site was the second highest source of referring traffic for his lengthy feature.
  • He was at first gleeful over the attention his story was receiving from Gawker and (Washington Post-owned site,, but later changed his mind after being deflated by his editor’s claim that Gawker stole his story and punctuated with a deflating “where’s your outrage, man?”

Deja Vu

At my age, this whole thing feels ridiculously familiar and much like all the outrage from musicians over sampling their original recordings in hip hop. Like hip hop artists and other artists like Girl Talk do for aging and forgotten recordings, sites like Gawker are actually keeping crumbling journalistic institutions like The Washington Post relevant for a whole host of online readers.

Most of the people who clicked through to the Washington Post would never have read or cared about the story in the Washington Post without the framing and context the link from Gawker provided.

Gawker Bites Back

Of course, Gawker retorted brilliantly with a post by Garbriel Snyder outing the communications person from The Washington Post who regularly sends stories with pulled quotes and links to make writing about them easier… hmmm, PR  comes full circle (but that’s another post altogether).

Where Am I?

The human-shaped web is much more than disconnected strangers each standing on his or her soapbox. We provide context and relevance for one another and we keep each other honest (I hope).

If you really want to understand what all this Internet stuff is about, follow the links. We may live in uncertain times, but there’s one thing you can definitely count on: Links Matter.

by Randy Son Of Robert
Bookmark and Share

If you enjoyed this post, make sure to subscribe for regular updates!

InstapaperLinkedInSphinnPosterousMixxStumbleUponGoogle ReaderNewsVinePrintFriendlyTumblrSave and Share
Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

September 13, 2009 gerardmclean 1

This kind of trending may also be a factor. Like anything else, when something gets to be “profitable,” the mob moves in. :-)


September 13, 2009 Shannon Paul 2

That’s an interesting link you shared, but it does not explain the reasons people on Twitter gave to Problogger about not including outbound links in their posts, nor does it add anything to the discussion about the situation between Gawker Media and The Washington Post.

It’s not about the mob moving in, it’s about the mob growing up and becoming more professional without losing sight of what fueled their success to begin with- that success is built on links. See the difference?


September 14, 2009 Heather Whaling 3

A couple weeks ago, I was doing some research for a post and came across a YouTube clip where Jay Rosen explains that linking content is a critical part of the social web. He said it’s “how we connect people to knowledge.” (Interesting sidenote: In the video, he explains how the traditional media jumped into the online world without really understanding the importance of linking out. He thinks that’s the old-guard refusing to help people get knowledge from outside sources.)

If bloggers and other online media outlets aren’t linking, doesn’t that kind of defeat a basic premise of the social web? What kind of “web” are we weaving if we don’t incorporate links that help people get more details or correctly credit the source?

Great post, Shannon.

Heather (@prtini)


October 9, 2010 Elina Badgett 4

I love your blog post. It is very good.


November 17, 2010 Johnny Boyd 5

You want to get as many inbound links as possible, and avoid outbound linking. The theory is that outbound links “bleed PageRank” which lowers your position in the search engines.


Previous post:

Next post: