Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been having a conversation with two bloggers about when and how to link to sources of the news that you write.
The conversation emerged out of my observation that these two bloggers were posting very similar news stories to ones that I’d been posting on one of my blogs.
Now at a first look I didn’t think anything of it – after all it is natural for blogs in a similar niche to report the same news as each other – however on a closer look I began to suspect that they were using my blog as the source for many of their stories.
Their posts would appear within 24 hours of mine with the same links, same quotes, same pictures (with the same file names) and same post structure (ie points in the same order, the same opinions, the same paragraph structure etc).
The actual content had been re-written in their own words but the bones of their posts were very similar to mine and this was happening on a daily basis. In fact it was very obvious that they were using my own posts as a basis for theirs – however there were no links back or mentions of the sources of their stories.
I began getting emails from a few readers asking if I knew knew I was being ‘copied’ by these blogs and so decided to email the bloggers concerned to ask for an explanation. I did so feeling very awkward and in two minds. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter (I’ve got more important things to worry about) – however I was curious about why they did it and wanted to let them know that I (and others) had noticed.
The email conversations that resulted from my email have been interesting to this point and highlights our different approaches to sourcing stories.
The main blogger that I’ve since chatted with took my email very well and in the spirit that it was intended and confessed that while he did find some of his stories on my blog that he didn’t want to link to the blog he found the story on (mine) but instead linked to the original sites that I was linking to. In a sense he saw what he was doing as cutting out the middle man and felt it was legitimate.
He explained that he did this to ‘save his readers time’ as if he did link both to me they’d end up just reading the same basic news more than once.
On some levels I can see his point. Sometimes it can be frustrating as a reader to see the same story rewritten everywhere in much the same way. I’m sure some readers just want the news and don’t really care where it came from.
However my approach is to always attempt to link to the story itself as well as the person who tipped me off about it.
While it might ‘save the reader time’ to not to link to sources I find that most readers who are interested in a story do like to see what others have to say about it – both other bloggers and those who have commented on the story.
I also think linking to sources also is a good practice for your blog in a number of ways:
• search engines – many SEO experts talk about how outbound links can actually help your own blog’s ranking if you’re linking to relevant pages. Linking to the places you find stories shows your site is connected to relevant parts of the web.
• profile in your niche – you can help your reputation and lift your blog’s profile with other bloggers in your niche who see the incoming links to their blog and check out more of what you’re writing. In linking generously to other blogs you’ll find they’ll be more likely to link back to you which is good for traffic generation and SEO.
• readers – I find that readers respond well to seeing how widely you read and how well connected you are. While too many links might overwhelm them a few well placed ones can show that you know what you’re talking about and that you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the niche you’re writing about.
• accountability – Lastly I think linking to sources adds a level of accountability and transparency to a blog that can actually lift it up a notch in terms of quality. I know that if I’m reporting a news story that I’ve found elsewhere that I’ll often put more effort into writing the story as I know people will compare what I’ve written to what my source has written.
But that’s just my approach and the conversation with these other bloggers is highlighting to me that bloggers take different positions on this and argue for them strongly.
I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of others:
Do you always credit sources of stories? Are there some times that you don’t? Why/Why not?