The New York Times launched their “extra” version of their website’s homepage yesterday (click on the extra link underneath the NYT name in the header). While I find the execution makes the page even more dense than it, the idea marks one step toward the future of online news. For some time now, the people at Publish2 have promoted the idea of link journalism which they define as “…linking to other reporting on the web to enhance, complement, source, or add more context to a journalist’s original reporting.” This is what the Times has instituted.
The idea is simple — in addition to the original reporting you publish on your site, you also provide readers links to other stories that enhance yours, give it more depth, provide context, give opposing viewpoint, etc. Your readers benefit by getting (or at the very least, are offered) a more comprehensive understanding of the story’s topics. You benefit by becoming a trusted source for complete coverage and end up with repeat visitors.
I know many organizations hold the content they produce in-house as sacred and don’t want people linking away from the site. They don’t want to invite competition by offering links to other sources of information and don’t want to open the floodgates to outside opinion which could potentially muddy their communication strategies. Of course, the notion that you can control your message in a networked world is false. Social networking has proven that point. People will, have and continue to discuss your organization, its actions, its products, its people, its customer service, and everything else about you. Attempting to hide behind a gated community only makes you look secretive and loses you credibility.
Link journalism is simply a way to acknowledge and accept what’s already happening in the world around you. If you can’t control the world, then join it. Participate in the conversations already taking place. Provide a voice to the organization to inject your viewpoint, show transparency and gain, if not respect, at least credibility and points for showing up.