This is 2018 and the Tampa Bay Times has had a web presence for something around 20 years. I’ve already posted about their archives and a lack of generic advertising to go along with the content that continues to draw in web traffic. There’s another issue that I’d like to point at the Tampa Bay Times content that is #FAIL on the most basic level for content presented online. This isn’t aimed at archived content but all Times articles online and an exclusion habit by the publication that works against itself: web links.
Content can inspire curiosity. Content can be derived from other news sources saying this-and-that. Content can be about subjects you’ve previously covered and you’re building on the topic or subject matter. Content might reference past articles or past events that have already been covered. A hyperlink to what is referenced is something that’s basic web writing and web marketing. You link to an article you cite from third parties, you link to on-site content if you need to. It serves the readers, it serves the search engines, and it serves you.
And the Tampa Bay Times lacks this, be it on TampaBay.com or TBO.com.
If you don’t know the Internet and presenting content online, you might jump here and complain that web links send people away from web pages they are viewing. That’s not necessarily the case. Any web hyperlink can be set to open in a new window or a new tab. It may send someone’s attention away from a web page that they were previously viewing but it doesn’t necessarily end their experience on the originating web page.
Think about it like this: The Times had an article reacting to the Sacramento Bee giving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniforms a last-place ranking. The Times article didn’t link to the article of reference. If they had, they would send someone’s attention away to the uniform ranking write-up. They wouldn’t necessarily have lost the reader’s interest in seeing the Times reaction. Hell, the reader might not click thru to the Sacramento Bee write-up until after they finished the Times piece. The Bee article is just one web link the Times column lacked. Self-linking could have been done to a 2014 piece about the Buccaneers “new” uniform and other links could have gone in there that referenced other Bucs articles on TampaBay.com.
You also have to remember that this is the World Wide Web, an article presented online can draw readership from any market on any continent (as long as they have web access and something that draws them to the web page/article to begin with) of any age. Some doing reading aren’t going to give a damn about reference links and others are going to seek more information. To provide in-story reference links serves that purpose.
It’s basic web stuff, really. It’s not blog-exclusive to provide links on articles.
If the issue is simply underlined content online showing up as such in print there’s a grander issue afoot than providing web links: It’s a logistics failure by the Times. If a document can’t go to print without link underlining showing up, the failure isn’t the fact an article provided a web link as-so-much an article didn’t translate from online to print media and the Times content management system doesn’t have a fix. It’s not like you can’t work around that.
It just gets me. It’s not that the Tampa Bay Times is some backwoods newspaper with no presence in society. They are owned by the Poynter Institute which is about journalism and tied to media in general. Online media content should not be a foreign entity there in part of content presentation in this day and age. What does it say about the nonprofit organization if it is?
I’m not trying to sully the Tampa Bay Times here, I’m not pointing and laughing and my intent is not to mock – that would be a whole different approach in the writing. My recent write-up and this piece are attempts to aid a major publication (which has required investment from third parties) in generating money for itself. You don’t do readers a service by leaving out links to content you reference. You don’t do yourself a service by leaving out links to past news stories you reference. You don’t do yourself a service by treating past content (which still draws web traffic) like it’s a forgotten-but-there empty vessel.
And while I have readers in mind when I say to use links, it’s also for the sake of Times advertising. While I encourage off-site linking when necessary, it’s also about ad-impressions with self-reference links. That’s monkey making – ad impressions and potential click-thrus. That’s basics of the web… Said by a blogger who gets minimum web traffic bur is exposed to this information and has been for years.
It’s the 21st century. For the sake of self-sustenance, the Tampa Bay Times needs to start acting like it with online content.