The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, December 13, 2003

The hyper-un-linked news piece as deliberate policy. Bastards!

Just clearing links to the lumber-room, and come across an OJR piece from September 17 on the use - or, rather, the lack of it - of links in pieces on news sites.

Naively, I had thought it was mere laziness or a diffuse Luddism of those steeped in a culture of hot metal (even if they never worked with it). Wrong.

The reason that, when they mention a press briefing or speech or new bill or judicial decision - or piece in some other rag, they don't link to it is that
The focus was on collecting eyeballs, and any link that sent readers offsite was frowned upon. A link that went to a competitor's site was almost treasonous.

One notes the past tense. And, indeed, the piece goes on:
Times have changed. Slowly, linking policies at news Web sites are loosening up.

But only, reading on, in ghettoes like Howard Kurtz's WaPo Media Notes and the various in-site journalist blogs. A commitment to hyperlinked-ness on the part of the news boys of roughly the same intensity as South Carolina's commitment to schools desegregation in 1960.

Damn their eyes! As I think I've pointed out before, despite all the flash gizmos, the net is still, in car terms, around 1915. There's the momentary elation of freedom and speed - regularly soured by the need to get out and get under - as the song has it.

And, although the insides of the PC are the epitome of automation, the substantive work of getting information - tracing a particular bill currently before Congress or some opinion of the Ninth Circuit - is completely manual.

[Google is great - but only for certain things [1], and up to a point - the results still need the sort of handling which is akin to the management of a steam locomotive, and a million miles away from an electric one.]

The fact that these sites have the information but officiously decline to provide it is bad enough. But what does it say about their opinion of their visitors?

Surely, the advantage of the net is its facility to supply source material to references, and allow the reader to check the interpretation he's being offered? And there is no shortage of cases where the need for that kind of customer cross-check is amply proved necessary.

But, by not putting links in with a view to keeping the customer reading, the media sites must assume he is not going to want to check. Because, obviously, making him find the link himself is going to take him away from the source site for much longer!

And, in the course of his search, he may well find another source which is more interesting, and never return to the first one!

  1. It is diabolical in finding statistics; often poor with such things as court decisions. There needs to be dedicated bots for such things: and a search based on a specialist search page (for court decisions, with boxes for country, description of court, party names, etc).

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