Top editors at the Washington Post sent a memo this week instructing staffers it is “vital that we link both internally and externally to other content in our stories, on blogs and even in captions.”
The Post may be a little late on the issue. As Jay Rosen tweeted, “The Web burst upon us in 1995. Sixteen years later the Washington Post is getting around to teaching its people to link.” Still, it’s good to see Marcus Brauchli, Raju Narisetti and Liz Spayd leading in the right direction.
The note addresses first the importance of linking:
Links are the signposts of the Internet. Without them, we lose readers. This may seem counterintuitive, especially when it comes to external links. But when links are properly placed, they send people deeper into Post content. With external links, we guide readers — with one click — to the report we are quoting or the story from another source we are referencing. With a simple link, we avoid sending readers on a frustrating journey to learn more about what we are already writing about.
Then the memo gives practical instructions. It calls on reporters and other content creators to take the lead in adding links, not to leave it to editors, and provides three best practices:
- “Link relevant Post content to a keyword phrase.”
- “When you’re referencing an outside source or an article, link to it.”
- “When there is a report mentioned in the paper that we have online, give people a shortened URL.”