The missing links

Was reading about a study the other day, one whose sad and startling results I wanted to share with readers of my distracted driving web site.

linked togetherProblem was, the article’s author didn’t identify the study — by title or sponsor or anything — a flunking matter in any Journalism 101 class. Even worse, although the article was online, there was no link to the study. The first offense is unusual in professional publishing, but sadly the second is not.

Newspapers are among the biggest offenders when it comes to not “linking out,” even though they’ve been functioning in the new-media world for decades. Big newspapers, little newspapers — doesn’t seem to make much difference. The New York Times is a prime offender, while the Washington Post makes an effort.

Newspapers and magazines remain largely populated and governed by “print people,” whose limited grasp of online fundamentals often drag down their Web products. Some editors and publishers feel linking off their web sites is just bad policy — why send readers elsewhere? Some leave their online operations gasping for manpower, leaving little time for anything but throwing up the articles of the day (I resist the urge to haul out a war story or two … ).

When print publishers do link out, often it’s done in the form of “refers” or “promo links” ghettoized to the end of the online article. Trouble is, most readers never get there.

The name of the game is what SEOs call contextual linking. That means readers are served by naturally occurring links within the editorial content. The wording in these links will, by definition, be germane to both the content where the link occurs and the target, or place where it points. (It will, ideally, never say “click here” but so often does.)

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The title of this article is …

titles in google search engine results

The title of this blog post is exactly 32 characters long. Did I bother to count them all? Nah. I used a handy web-thingy called Text Mechanic. Or I could have used Word (tools > word count). More importantly, why do I care? In this case, the … [Continue reading]

Photo finish: Cropping to fit

example of photo cropping

I coached a professional photographer a few years back. He needed something like 30 minutes of help before he was loading his images every which way onto his portfolio blog. Someone with limited exposure to photography, however, could struggle for … [Continue reading]

Taking a hit over web traffic

A direct hit

Having been a musket-carrying pioneer in the bad old days of the Internet, I got a kick out of a brouhaha that arose the other day over traffic to the Obamacare site in California. Peter Lee, the man who runs Covered California, told a celebratory … [Continue reading]

Welcome WordPress 3.6 — and HTML5

Twenty Thirteen theme default WP

The up-to-the-second version of WordPress hit the Internet today. It's Christmas and Bastille Day all in one. Put on the party hats ... and start brewing coffee. The count brings us to WordPress 3.6, and true to WP upgrades it's named after a jazz … [Continue reading]

Entropy, links & redirects

website image of broken link

"Entropy requires no maintenance," said the noted agnostic mystic Robert Anton Wilson. But your links do. People throw around the term entropy, to physicists' horror. It's hard to discuss accurately without getting into thermodynamics -- fun! -- … [Continue reading]

Curses! Dealing with 4-letter words

Blouto of Popeye fame

I used to work for an entertainment industry trade publication, written for the good people of Hollywood. For a fairly conservative paper, it had a liberal commonsense policy on profanity: If the word occurs naturally, use it. If the quote … [Continue reading]