This week, we ran an article about the Associated Press and its linking policies, which pointed out an article that seemed to be doing the kind of thing the organization has historically frowned upon from others – short articles based on someone else’s original reporting, linking to the original.
While that was largely the point of the article, we also noticed that some of the sites running the AP story had bit.ly URLs, which pointed to the original source, but didn’t actually link. Rather than linking some anchor text, it just had the URL in parentheses, which seems odd to me. Anyway, some of the sites actually linked the URL and some didn’t. The AP pointed out to us that they link it on their own site, and don’t control whether or not the other sites link.
Since backlinks are a pretty significant factor in building credibility on the web, I thought it would seem appropriate to make it a policy that sites running the AP’s content with links to other sources, be required to keep those links in tact. I asked Director of AP Media Relations Paul Colford why the AP does’t make this a policy. Here’s what he says:
As a cooperative and as a provider of services to our members and commercial customers (that is, we deliver text, photos, video, graphics etc. to papers large and small, broadcasters large and small, plus websites etc., which then consider our goods for their own needs and presentations), we don’t dictate how they utilize the material, or deal with links for that matter. The choices are theirs.
Moreover, I’m told that longer links have a tendency to break for any number of reasons; some links contain characters that transmit unevenly downstream. Which is why we also use bit.ly.
The bit.ly thing I get, although it does mask the domain it’s referring to.
Linking to your sources is common web etiquette. The AP gets this, clearly. They do it on their own properties, and incude the link (although I still don’t see why they don’t just link anchor text like most other news organizations). But apparently sites running AP content aren’t required to keep this etiquette in place.