(Originally posted on Dec. 1, 2010)
I recently saw a journalist’s Facebook status update expressing reservations about linking to a story on the website of “a competitor” news organization. That journalist wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to say that, but it’s outdated thinking, for two reasons.
Most importantly, online, your ability to provide links to compelling stories, video and other content is what keeps people coming back to you, whether it’s your website, your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, etc. etc. On the Web, no one cares whether you originated the story, but they care whether you are plugged in enough to the rest of the world to make their visit worth their while — and in this case, the “competitor” had simply posted a particularly juicy wire story.
Second, and the reason I put the word competitor in quote marks, is that whoever is that online your competitors are not the same as they are in the world of TV and newspapers. Your competition is everyone, every site that is trying to draw the attention of anyone. People have virtually unlimited options for how to spend their time online. Even if news online only had to compete for audience with other news online, how the public defines news is broader than the traditional media. One example from MG country: A group called Charlottesville Tomorrow covers planning and development issues in that part of Virginia, and the group has a news center set up on a Typepad site. Daily Progress editor McGregor McCance recognized that the group was all over those issues in a way his staff could not be, so he entered a partnership with the group. To varying degrees, there are individuals and groups everywhere who are intensely interested in certain issues, sometimes local, sometimes not. You can’t “compete” with them, and shouldn’t try. Pick your shots where it’s important, and if someone else has something interesting but not important enough for you or your staff to divert time to it, don’t be afraid to link to it.