Should a news site link to its rival?

Posted on June 25, 2007 
Filed Under Journalism

BBC’s Global News Director and blogger Richard Sambrook and David Weinberg chat about dismantling of the media. Excerpts:

In the early stages of the Internet, we thought that the task was really to attract as many people as possible to our site and get them to stay there as long as possible. It is now becoming clear that is not really what is about.

It is about bringing people to the site and having content they want to come to, but then facilitating them in doing things with it: emailing stories to friends, being able to take a video clip and embed it on their own site or send it off to their mother or father. Being able to do something with the BBC’s content is important to them as simply having our content available for them to come and to look at and post their own comments on.

That kind of cultural shift that says, it is not just about tracking people inside our castle and keeping them there. It is about being far more open and porous from there, and there is a real value to that, and we will get credit for that approach and that attitude which will build a community around us. That is quite a big cultural mind shift for people to take, being in traditional media…

We had this a few years ago, I remember vividly, we had a debate here in the BBC about when we run a story on our site, should we link to other news organizations who were also covering our story, possibly, in different ways? There was one group of people who very strongly felt, this was ridiculous, we would be promoting our competition, we wanted people to come to the BBC. Why should we enable them to go off to our competitors? Versus the other group, of which I was one, that said we will get credit with them for providing a service of value to them.

That is how people use the Internet, and they need to understand that we are self-confident enough organization to be able to provide them with links and information of value, even if it is to people whose not ourselves, and we will get a lot of credit and loyalty for being that way. That is a very small thing. But when you go to the BBC news site, you find a story, you will find links to other organizations that are covering the same thing and actually our research shows that is positive and we do get a kind of positive flowback from that.

That was the very first step in this direction. It has now gone as far as saying, we are going to put 13 news clips a day on YouTube and we are sure we will take you further still.

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