On linking, editorial
It’s a little late for me to enter the conversation — I’m out of town this weekend, which was supposed to be internet / work-free, sorry Veronica! — but for reference, something needs to be said on Engadget’s behalf regarding Scoble’s post earlier today. (If you want the shorter, Calacanis-style take, head here.)
First, I have to be clear: I like Scoble, and I dig his work. He’s in both my personal and professional feeds. More importantly, I consider him a colleague and a personal friend; I’ve invited him into my home, I’ve worked together with him, and I look forward to knowing him in the future — which is partly why I was taken aback today when he accused us (and just about everybody else on the block) of conspiring not to link to other blogs (namely, his blog).
I’ve written about blog ecosystem (and Engadget’s place in it) before; I believe it’s wholly symbiotic relationship. I don’t believe I would get to do what I do for a living without the support of the blogosphere; likewise, I doubt we would have as much interesting content as we do without reading (and linking to) smaller, more specialized tech sites. Just for grins here’s my totally unscientific breakdown Engadget content:
60% news found on other tech sites, blogs, forums, etc. (non-MSM)
15% press releases / directly sourced news
10% MSM news (found there or editorial)
10% original feature content
4% insider info, tip-offs, etc.
1% announcements, contests, etc.
A quick glance at the page right now showed some 10 or 11 out of 15 posts had a link to another blog or independent tech site, either as a “via” link (where we found out about some news) or as a “read” link (where we found the news itself). So maybe it’s actually way more than 60%, maybe it’s 85%, who knows. The point is, since day one we’ve linked to other blogs;
as far as I know, Peter invented the “via” link, which is a courtesy / hat-tip link we use to acknowledge finding something somewhere (while also pointing to the true source of the news with the “read” link). We’re not forced to “via” link, we choose to. It’s a courtesy we’re happy to extend to the publications which keep us afloat with interesting content, and Scoble was really wrong to say we don’t link to blogs. He apologized. Scoble, apology accepted.
But that brings us to part two: editorial decisions. We’re primarily a news publication, and we have to make editorial decisions day in and day out. I wasn’t on duty when the Intel post in question was written, but it was hit by Paul Miller, one of our best and most professional writers. I expect Paul to take into account all available information when writing, and he did just that. I asked Paul if he’d reviewed the Scoble videos; he told me he had, and didn’t find anything that would have benefitted our editorial. In a private email this afternoon, Robert described his video as the “freaking scoop of the century and no one linked to it.” I asked Paul to review the videos a second time to search of any facts or content we missed that might have benefitted our editorial; he did so and reported back to me that he found none. A tour of the Intel plant isn’t the scoop of the century — at least not to us. That’s an editorial decision, and I trust Paul implicitly to make it.
But that brings up another interesting facet of new media: linking to sites as an aspect of editorial. I view linking as an extension of our editorial, and as such it falls into place with our editorial decision-making. When we link to a site, that’s a tacit affirmation of quality as deemed by Engadget’s editorial standards. Because people trust us not to lead them astray, we have a pretty transparent standing NSFW linking policy (i.e. we won’t directly link to a xxx pr0n site with a tech story, for instance). I recently contacted one blogger because I wanted to link to his site, but the page in question had some nudity left by a user. I let the admin know know of our quandary, he apparently didn’t even realize it was there, the offending material was taken down, and we linked through. Good stuff! On the other hand, sometimes many sites will write up the same news at the same time, tip us, and we have to pick which one to link. How do we pick? Usually it’s just where we found the news first (i.e. who tipped or blogged first), but sometimes we have to make an editorial decision and just pick the blog or publication that did the best job, added the most value to the conversation. It’s nothing personal, but a lot of sites definitely take it personally.
I won’t deny that Scoble links to us more than we link to him nowadays, that’s pretty much a fact. As you know, we’re a news publication. After he left Microsoft his blog stopped being populated with newsy content about a company we often cover, thus our outbound links to his blog slid (see all the dates of our Scoble refs?). Now he’s doing his thing at PodTech, which is great, but his current content by and large lands outside our realm of coverage. I don’t see G4 complaining that we’re not linking to them even though Engadget is mentioned on their site and on the air all the time. The simple fact is news and editorial cycles are not always bidirectional. Many, many sites link to news pubs like Engadget, but these news pubs exist to link to (and write about) the news, and pretty much nothing else. Its just a different content cycle, that’s the reality of the situation. (By the way, we linked to Scoble just a couple of weeks ago during CES.)
So, again, I’m cool with Robert. He’s my pal, and I’m looking forward to putting today’s pointless invective behind us; we all have our missteps. Yes, obviously we link to blogs, although sometimes we have to make the same kinds of choices about vouching for others’ editorial as we have to make with our own. We love and respect the blogosphere, and consider ourselves as much a part of it as the general news dialogue; it’s a symbiosis I’m especially proud we’re a part of, and one I don’t expect to change any time Pete and I have control over Engadget’s direction.