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BBC News linking policy

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 13:03 UK time, Friday, 19 March 2010

How often do you click on the external links we add to stories on the BBC News site?

How useful are they, and how could they be better?

We are looking at the way we do links to other sites, and I'm interested to know what you think.

Linking has always been an important part of what the BBC News website does. We've included links on the right-hand side of stories since the site's earliest days.

Much has changed since then, and the value and importance of links has grown with the diversity and richness of the web.

The BBC Strategy Review [1.40MB PDF] recently unveiled by director general Mark Thompson set as one of its goals a major increase in outbound links from the BBC website - a doubling of the number of "click-throughs" to external sites from 10 million to 20 million a month by 2013.

Elsewhere, there has been a detailed debate, specifically about how we link to articles in scientific journals. If you want to catch up with that, it's been taking place at Ben Goldacre's tumblelog and in Paul Bradshaw's post at the Online Journalism Blog.

So for various reasons it feels like high time to take stock.

This is a summary of the current guidance (some of it a reminder of existing best practice), which I sent round to BBC News website journalists a few months ago:

• Related links matter: They are part of the value you add to your story - take them seriously and do them well; always provide the link to the source of your story when you can; if you mention or quote other publications, newspapers, websites - link to them; you can, where appropriate, deep-link; that is, link to the specific, relevant page of a website.

• Remember to add the automated "Newstracker" (the "From Other News Sites" box which appears on the story right-hand side) to stories unless editorially inappropriate or if there simply are no relevant links.

Screengrab of Newstracker• Add relevant links into the text of background and analysis articles, such as this collection of backgrounders on coping with financial difficulties.

• Where we have previously copied PDFs (for full versions of official reports and documents, for example) and put them on our own servers, we should now consider in each case whether to simply link to PDFs in their native location - with the proviso that if it's likely to be a popular story, we may need to let the site know of possible increased demand.

• Make use of the new "See Also" blog which has been providing a daily run-down of debate in the newspapers and elsewhere about the topical issue of the day, and which we use to enhance our own stories with links to off-site comment and analysis.

On linking to science papers in particular, we don't currently have a specific policy, but the simplest principle would seem to be that we should find and provide the most relevant and useful links at time of writing, wherever they are - whether it's an abstract of a scientific paper, the paper itself, or a journal.

There is some devil in the detail as far as this goes, though. First and foremost, we're often reporting a story before the full paper has been published, so there may not yet be a full document to link to; some journals are subscription-only; some have web addresses which might expire.

For these reasons, we have so far generally opted to link to the front page of the journal, assuming this is going to be the most reliable and useful jumping-off point for readers.

But overall, whether it's linking to science papers, or linking in general, we want to find the best approach. So here are a few questions we'd love to know the answers to:

• Which external (that is, non-BBC) links do you value most on our stories? (For example, links to the source material for government reports and science papers; links to other related news coverage; related commentary and analysis.)

• Where do you think the links should live? Separated slightly from the story text (for example, in a box alongside the text) or embedded within the text itself? Would it bother you if we put links - whether to our own content or articles elsewhere - into the body text of all our stories, or do you wish we'd done that ages ago?

• For scientific papers, should we link to a journal's front page, or the scientific paper itself, or both? If the full paper isn't available, should we link to the abstract in cases where it's available?

• Would you mind if what we link to requires registration to access it? Or if it's behind a paywall, and requires subscription or payment? And would you expect us to tell you that before you got there?

It would be great to hear your views on any or all of these points.

One thing seems clear already - summed up by Henry, a contributor to one of the discussions I mentioned earlier: Our role as an archive and resource is becoming as important to many of you as the more traditional role of reporting the latest news headlines. You can help us work out what that means for our day-to-day work as journalists.

Update 1 April: I have written a follow-up post here.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    I'm with Ben Goldacre here, I would love each BBC News page to have proper deep links to original content, when it is relevant.

    Two reasons really:

    1) It proves your editorial processes are working properly;

    2) It is useful to have this information when you need it, and can be easily overlooked when not.

    I think the way Wikipedia does references, with subscript numeric in-document links for the note in the original page, linking to a "Reference" section with the full link details towards the end of the page. You could have this "hidden" by default.

    It is rather meaningless NOT having deep links most of the time, and, as you have done the work in the first page, annoying too.

  • Comment number 2.

    Having links to the press release or academic paper would be very useful. Equally, when there is an academic paper, then having the full title, author list and details of the conference/journal would be good - it solves the problem of the links not being permanent, as you can search for it. It also means you can name the paper before the journal is itself available (if the press release was early) and people can later find the article when it comes out.

    I appreciate that you need to work out how to nicely integrate this with the site's design, but having a section at the bottom saying "Sources" or "References", with the details in it, e.g.

    "Made up paper Title", Homer Simpson and Mickey Mouse, Journal of Research 2002. Link to Abstract, Link to paper (subscription required), Link to Press Release

    This should be familiar to many readers, since it's similar to that used by Wikipedia to provide sources.

    It would add a lot to some stories, and might also catch "non-stories" where there's no publicly visible press-release. For example, in the story referred to in http://www.badscience.net/2010/03/rentokil/ there isn't a publicly visible press release with the numbers given, and there is some controversy as to whether the press release was misleading. If there is no press release to link to, the journalists can ask "why not" and check the claims more thoroughly.

  • Comment number 3.

    Would you mind if what we link to requires registration to access it? Or if it's behind a paywall, and requires subscription or payment? And would you expect us to tell you that before you got there?

    Surely if you put payment required in brackets after the link then this wouldn't be a problem as people would know which links require a payment and which ones don't.


    Personally I would like all stories containing information from a study, questionnaire etc within it should have a direct link to the source information, preferably within the text of the article, although a group of all links relating to the story at the side or bottom of the page would be useful too, especially if there are several of them for that particular article.

  • Comment number 4.

    Dear Mr. Steve, i would like to ask if that website should be more bi-directional. I mean, to give more chance to the 'people of internet' to interact each others and participating with your staff to rising the message you have in mind.

    Wish you the best
    Paolo

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    I quite often follow up a story from this website by following links - but could you please set them to open in a new window so that it is easier to return to the story I was reading here when I'm done with the external site?

    I'm an e-learning specialist & I always do this when I have a series of links for students to follow, so that they can always return to where they started. I think it would be helpful here. It's just a simple addition to the HTML code for the link, your 'webheads' will know how.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think the links work very well in genral on most website because you can somtimes feel a little stuck on pages where marketing men try and sell you somthing.

    I find that i'm always clicking the links on this site, and a lot on Iplayer

    Ed

  • Comment number 8.

    But here's an issue. Are you going to censor the links? If you report on a contentious issue - say the BNP - will you link to the BNP website? If you do an article on climate change deniers, will you link there? If you publish an article about paedophilia, you clearly can't link to child sex websites. There obviously have to be guidelines. Do you only link to one side of a debate? Is it important to demonstrate balance in your linking, as well as in editorial content? Will an article on (say) Creationism in schools include links to websites on both sides of the argument?

    You see what I'm getting at, I'm sure. You could very easily influence understanding of a particular news story by the web links you choose to include. So how will you decide - and will the people involved have any say?

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm with Ben Goldacre too. It would also be very helpful if stories about things like government commissioned reports linked to the actual report. Nerds like to go to the original source!

  • Comment number 11.

    I much prefer to have links to external content embedded within the text of an article - I find that I often miss links which are placed in the margin and the context of those links is lost.

    There's also an issue around being 'good citizens' on the web. The BBC's current paucity of external links feels somewhat elitist - for me I much prefer (and find more useful) the approach of publications like Slate.com where hyperlinked content provides a subtext of information that the interested reader can explore.

  • Comment number 12.

    I also agree with Ben Goldacre on this issue. On several occasions I have been frustrated in a search for an article vaguely referenced by a story on this website.

    There is no reason not to deep link to journal articles by linking to the doi. Alternatively, why not link to the entry on Pubmed? Both of these links should be extremely stable.

  • Comment number 13.

    Really hate this internal destruction of the BBC, linking out shouldn't be featured at all, BUT pragmatism does lead me to reluctantly accept.

    The one thing that it has to be is relevant, the automated procedure used currently is crazy in that it throws up FREQUENTLY totally disconnected stories, especially when linking out to UK stories on provincial newspaper sites, the algorithm needs polishing if not a rewrite.

    Achedemic research is a good idea BUT it needs some sort of trusted source list so the authoritative nature is genuine. Site's such as Wikipedia would appear to be acceptable, but aren't imo, the vandalism aspect would seem to discount it's use in Editorials, yet it could be deemed acceptable in the BBC blogosphere.

    Paysites should be ignored really, it'd open up more issues that it'd solve.

    Good luck.

  • Comment number 14.

    In experience, it does seem convenient to go in depth via links embedded in article, skip or go, could have been done ages ago indeed.

    See also and related serve us well.

    As to Megan, links opened in new window feel more 'natural', if not faster to navigate.

    To click on a link to specific science paper to search for particular science paper?

    I'd certainly expect you to tell me that I'm about to enter another dimension.

    With best wishes and imo, as ever.

  • Comment number 15.

    • Which external (that is, non-BBC) links do you value most on our stories? (For example, links to the source material for government reports and science papers; links to other related news coverage; related commentary and analysis.)

    Give us links to the primary sources, definitely. Secondary commentary and analysis can be useful, but please don't link to it merely "because it's there"; the material linked to should be useful in that it covers matters in more detail or with better analysis than the BBC can readily offer us. Other general news coverage I can find readily enough for myself.

    • Where do you think the links should live? Separated slightly from the story text (for example, in a box alongside the text) or embedded within the text itself? Would it bother you if we put links - whether to our own content or articles elsewhere - into the body text of all our stories, or do you wish we'd done that ages ago?

    I like links within body text. However, I think it would be best to present links in the least awkward form - whatever that actually turns out to be - for readers who, for example, rely on screen-reading software. Perhaps it could be configurable via one's BBCiD, for those who have one.

    • For scientific papers, should we link to a journal's front page, or the scientific paper itself, or both? If the full paper isn't available, should we link to the abstract in cases where it's available?

    Being able to get to an abstract quickly would be a big win. A link to the article or abstract is superior to a link to the journal, since it's (usually) easy enough to get from the article to the journal, but not always in the other direction.

    For those of us who aren't academically privileged and can't afford the generally ludicrous price per article, it'd be good if you could ask the author(s) whether there's a freely-available version. If there is, please also provide a link to that.

    • Would you mind if what we link to requires registration to access it? Or if it's behind a paywall, and requires subscription or payment? And would you expect us to tell you that before you got there?

    Registration isn't usually a big problem for me; there's always BugMeNot :) Even if we can't retrieve the linked article ourselves, we may know someone who can get it for us. So that's still useful. Letting people know in advance that the link is to non-free stuff would be helpful, though.

  • Comment number 16.

    Steve, in my opinion the "Newstracker" is the least useful type of link the BBC can offer, if I want to know what another website is saying I can can find the article, people come to the BBC read what the BBC says - not to be shown links to (sometimes, commercial) competitors - Just because there is a relationship between boiled eggs and egg-cups doesn't mean I want to read about egg-cups! Has the BBC done any work to see how many of these "Newstracker" links have reciprocal links back to the BBC?

    Links to PDF files, always link to both the PDF file and any relevant HTML summaries/equivalent documents (especially on larger documents.

    Deep links, yes, as "Briantist" says, rather pointless not to have a deep link (unless there are accessibility issues), pointless to link to www.foo.com when the relevant page is five levels down in a menu, three sub-domains away from the default home page. I also like "Briantist" idea of Wikipeadia footnote type references - if possible, with the footnote showing the URL in the clear, not always possible with long links I know, standard HTML 'masking' should then be used - what ever you do - please do not feel tempted to use "Tinyurls" type link shortening, many people simply refuse to follow such links how ever trustworthy the source is.

    On-going stories should, were possible, always have a "History box", containing all links to past (BBC) articles, audio and video).

    Pre-registration (unless it's a site were people would expect to find such registration, such as a forum or blog), the BBC should avoid even making mention of such sites, even if that means not running the story, if they are linked to then there would have to be either very good editorial justification and probably no other site on the net containing the same or similar content. Links to and pay sites never happen, not even their default home pay, if such links do have to be made the link should first go via a BBC generated "Click to continue" page were the reader is warned that the site that they are visiting may ask for payment - I would think seriously about making this "Warning" and thus the site launch in a new tab/window.

    One non linking comment, if I may, can the BBC please sort out the embedding of video/audio content, it should NOT auto-run, preferably not even auto-buffer, on slow computers/connections it can slow the browser to a crawl if not the whole computer.

    That's enough to get on with...

  • Comment number 17.

    I absolutely agree that 'deep links' as you call them should be used more widely by the BBC. I am amazed it has taken this long for something to be done.
    With regards to scientific articles direct linking to the paper/its abstract is immeasurably more useful than a link to a journal homepage, which serves no purpose whatsoever since the journal name is often mentioned in text.

    Links should preferably be to pages without the requirement to register to view, but many such pages often show the abstract anyway so I don't see much problem with this.

    I rather like the BBC's external links box the way it is at present. Stories aren't usually long enough to require numerical referencing.

  • Comment number 18.

    Sorry, I forgot to mention one thing: to avoid problems with link-rot, you're better off using the DOI scheme (http://dx.doi.org/) rather than URLs - see the Wikipedia "Digital object identifier" page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_object_identifier) for details.

    Not only do DOIs not suffer from link-rot, it's also very easy to use them to get properly-formatted citations for articles.

  • Comment number 19.

    I quite often follow up a story from this website by following links - but could you please set them to open in a new window so that it is easier to return to the story I was reading here when I'm done with the external site? --Megan

    You can change where links open up in your browser settings.
    If you prefer having lots of windows clogging up your computers cogs that's fine, not everyones' machines are up to that so it shouldn't be the default option.

  • Comment number 20.

    Greater inclusion of links within the text of articles would be beneficial for many users. I do think that you should retain the links box on the right hand side of the page too - often, on reaching the end of an article I will decide to look for these and having them in an consistent accessible place is much easier than having to reread text to try to find them. The link source is also more visible here than when embedded in the text.

    Links to organisations involved in an article are useful and I would value links to original sources, press releases etc too.

    Obviously you require a clear policy on censorship - the point about linking to e.g. the BNP site is an important one. And if a link is to be censored then I think you need to be clear that this has happened and provide a link to the policy so that readers can see why you have taken the decision.

  • Comment number 21.

    Yes, the BBC should certainly link to the original journal article. Most academic journals have abstracts and publications details freely available, so the link should be to the abstract page (preferably via the DOI system -- see www.doi.org -- so that the links won't get broken later). Anyone can then read the abstract for the paper. They may access to it or access it from an institutional account, but generally the abstract should inform a reader of the conclusions of a paper and allow him/her to check that the main story is in accordance with them.

    Linking to a press release is much less desirable. There have been several instances of university press offices misunderstanding (or perhaps deliberately exaggerating) discoveries by academics. Link to the paper, which will have been (or will be) peer reviewed.

    I notice that The Economist newspaper frequently gives footnote references to new economics research it discusses, so the BBC wouldn't be the first quality news source to do it.

  • Comment number 22.

    Value of links? There's no real preference here, if the story interests me, I will click through one or more of your links.

    Where? I think you should take note of the rest of the internet and have links embedded with in the story. the vast majority of internet users are familiar with this, and new users soon will be.

    Science links? To the article question. Most of the time, trying to navigate through an unfamiliar website can simply put people off looking further into the story. We seem to be a "want it now" generation, (nothing to do with age), so it would be realistic to expect a link to take us to the relevant pages as opposed a home page. This would also apply to Government links.

    Registration or paywall? In principle. No. Certainly not linking to a site that requires subscription or payment to access information relevant to the story being reported. This is the BBC, not the Murdoch empire! Registration or a simple entering of e mail address, wouldn't be so bad. No links to subscription site please.

  • Comment number 23.

    "Would it bother you if we put links - whether to our own content or articles elsewhere - into the body text of all our stories, or do you wish we'd done that ages ago?"

    I'd much prefer it in the text. Yes, I do wish you'd done it ages ago.

    Also, I'm very happy to right-click "open in new tab" or "open in new window". I'd prefer to make that choice myself rather than having you trying to use a target of "top" or "new" for example. I really don't want any Javascript nonsense to work the link - notably because sometimes I simply want copy the link.

    "• For scientific papers, should we link to a journal's front page, or the scientific paper itself, or both? If the full paper isn't available, should we link to the abstract in cases where it's available?"

    Direct links where possible please. Degrading gracefully to the abstract is a perfectly fine thing to do.

    "• Would you mind if what we link to requires registration to access it? Or if it's behind a paywall, and requires subscription or payment? And would you expect us to tell you that before you got there?"

    You could decorate the link (possibly with text) but I'm not too bothered - it's not your fault the content is protected. I would prefer you to link to the blocked authoritative source rather than an open one which is misleading. If I want, I can search for an open one.

    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to comment on this issue.

  • Comment number 24.

    6. At 4:54pm on 19 Mar 2010, Megan wrote:

    "but could you please set them to open in a new window so that it is easier to return to the story I was reading here when I'm done with the external site?"

    You can do that yourself, either vie the browser options, so that by default all pages will open in a new window or tab, or on a per link bases via your navigation device (such as a mouse) and the context menu that is available.

    As others have said, smaller screen resolutions cannot cope with multiple windows opening, some systems will be slowed to a crawl by multiple browser events.

  • Comment number 25.

    I would like to see the option to open links in another tab/window so as to avoid leaving the BBC site.

  • Comment number 26.

    A tricky area - especially given how some major search engines rank pages. If a highly popular site like the BBC links to another site, that other site will find itself shooting up the page ranks. Need to be careful that organisations don't create "news" or silly surveys merely to get you to link to them.

    Another tricky area is politically and legally contentious sites. Should you link to the BNP, Wikileaks, and groups campaigning for highly dubious causes?

    I think the answer to both these issues is to not have a hard rule (as this always leads to unintended consequences) but to have guidelines and allow some reliance on journalistic professionalism and integrity.

  • Comment number 27.

    As a teacher, I'm forever trying to get my students to include a proper bibliography or references section at the end of their essays, so I'm all in favour of the BBC setting a good example here.
    On the subject of links to scientific journals, please do link to the actual paper itself: the BBC can take a leading role in improving the quality of science reporting here.
    And, whilst on the subject of science reporting, is there any chance that your science reports could include a few more basic statistics? It's all very well being told that a study has shown that the likelihood of X has doubled, but it would be nice to know the likelihood in absolute terms as well (this could kill a whole swathe of bad science...).

  • Comment number 28.

    List of links at the side is good - indicate if registration or fee due
    Links within an article are OK as good browsers will open in another tab

    Getting a balance for both sides is not always done.

    Why do not all articles allow comments - to let you know if you are getting it right?

    "Deep linking" works for me as I can always explore when I get there

  • Comment number 29.

    The BBC (and not just BBC News) need to be aware of the impact on websites they highlight. I ended up as Steve Wright's website of the week and my traffic multiplied by a factor of 12 in the space of about 6 hours, causing me to bust my monthly bandwidth allowance from my provider and causing them to automatically suspend my site. Before it shut down, my inbox also exceed capacity from radio 2 listeners requesting information from me. I didn't have enough time to react and buy more capacity as I was in the Australian outback at the time on holiday and nowhere near an internet connection!

    On the flip side I'm very grateful to Radio 2, it doesn't half help your rankings on google if the BBC links to you. The New York Times also linked to me in the same week.

  • Comment number 30.

    There are two potential downsides to linking to a specific page rather than a website:

    1) The page could, in time, get moved leading the person clicking the link to an error message.

    2) The page linked to could quickly be made into an advert if the site got wise to it having been linked directly in a way that the home page of a website couldn't.

    I think the 2nd problem would be very rare, but that both could be solved, at least partly by linking to both the home page of the organisation publishing the source material and directly to the source material itself. This would be easy to do, and you make the site more useful for people wanting to know more about the article.

  • Comment number 31.

    I thought Auntie was cutting back on her webpages.

  • Comment number 32.

    Your links have been extremely useful to me, from the early days of the internet when you used to have a few recommended sites on one of your programmes each week, to now, where I find sources of information that I had previously not known, I have discovered aspects of the IT revolution that I would have otherwise never seen. Thank you.

  • Comment number 33.

    Umm... does this actually make sense?

    "some have web addresses which might expire" The journal might go bust? This seems vastly less likely than for any other web resource. Even if this is a concern then just link to the doi. The paper's hardly going to cease to exist.

    Also, if it's a journal: Give a paper reference (e.g. Nature 464 (2010), 325). That way, everyone can go to their local library and look up the paper copy regardless.

    "some journals are subscription-only" I doubt people expect to have access to scientific journals! "Subscription required" in brackets after the link would surely cover this.

    "we have so far generally opted to link to the front page of the journal" How on Earth does this actually help? If they can't read the article then they can't read the article. Knowing what the journal logo looks like doesn't help their understanding. Link to the article - in most cases people will be able to view the abstract which IS DESIGNED TO BE a summary document of the whole article and also provides a comprehensive author list etc. which people can use as they wish.

    "we're often reporting a story before the full paper has been published, so there may not yet be a full document to link to" If there's a doi there's no issue. If not... should you really be reporting non-peer reviewed results. People trust the BBC - that trust should be valued not abused.

    "the front page of the journal.. is going to be the most reliable and useful jumping-off point for readers." Why? No really, why?


    On the other points: linking to other news websites - pointless, unless they include valuable additional information. If they do why don't the BBC include that info in the first place?
    Linking to the original source document: crucial, necessary and essential.

  • Comment number 34.

    I often read the .pdf (proprietary format of Adobe) documents linked to by the reporters but I have noticed that respondents are not afforded the same priveliges.

    The links to video footage on the BBC website itself often (almost always) have no subtitles, not very Deaf friendly is it.

    Links is what it is all about, HTTP, HyperText Transfer Protocol, did someone miss Tim Berners Lee getting a knighthood ?

    Without Links it is just the internet, duh.

    WWW

  • Comment number 35.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Goldacre here. The actual paper or study is the only way to allow readers to critically asses the evidence and form a reasonable judgment.
    Links to external sites and references should remain seperate from the article to allow you to find them easily and I believe the current system works well.
    Perhaps in cases where payment is required it should be noted either in brackets or with links in italics etc.

  • Comment number 36.

    Links to source material are always welcome, but all kinds of external links are good.

    Links in the body are fine, but having the link is more important than exactly where it is.

    Links to papers (and for that matter anything else) should go directly to the relevant material. Getting from a journal front page to a paper is (potentially) difficult; the other round way is easy. By way of analogy: when people link to a news.bbc story on (e.g.) Twitter they don’t link to the news.bbc front page, they link directly to the story they’re talking about.

    Links that require registration or payment are fine, though obviously it’d be convenient to mention it.

  • Comment number 37.

    I would Love you to extend your use of embedded deep links.

    Take your recent story on the Hydrogen Ferry experiment in Bristol (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bristol/8575818.stm) as an example:

    There are two Related Links that go to two related organisations homepage's - neither of which has any information on the trial, and I wouldn't know where to find it - a pretty pointless link!

    Had there been deep links within the text (the quote "kick-start a hydrogen economy in Bristol" linking to it's source, for example) I would have loved to read more.

  • Comment number 38.

    well a) significant words or expressions should be hot links rather than on the side of the web page b) elaboration purposes - hover the mouse cursor over significant words/expressions pops up small windows with extra details - multi media content -quotes, small pictures, diagrams etc with maybe live links

  • Comment number 39.

    I think the links are all great - but could the target of the links to external sites be changed? It's annoying that you are automatically navigated away from the site, rather than the link opening in a fresh window/tab
    Cheers

  • Comment number 40.

    My experience in running a site that has been linked from a BBC article is that we actually got about the same boost in number of people arriving (according to Google Analytics) via Google searches as directly referred from the news article. To me this says that people don't see the "related links" on the right hand side of the page, and instead go straight to Google to search for things. This shows that just listing links off to the side is defective, as it isn't fulfilling user desires.

    Embed links directly into the story where appropriate, it's much more user friendly. Provide the related links down the side too (it's always good to multiply link something). I'm always very frustrated when a news article fails to link to the thing it's talking about.

  • Comment number 41.

    I would prefer all BBC links to open in a new tab/window. It is unfortunate that the vast majority of browser users never go into their settings, or know that a right-click can reveal all sorts of choices. They are also the least likely to be able to get back to the BBC article they started from if clicking on a link does not open a new tab/window, of course, so would be the ones to benefit most. In theory, that is, because (as has in effect been pointed out) they are also the least likely to know how to close down all the additional windows/tabs they might open in a session. (That isn't elitist, it's just fact, alas).

    My preference would be for internal BBC links only to be within the text, and links to external sites to be alongside. That makes the nature of a link clear for anyone.

    My fear is that if - as has been suggested - the BBC decides to dump a large part of its website, there will dead links left all over the place, no-one having been assigned to clean them up! I am still bewildered as to why that suggestion was ever made, but that's another topic.

  • Comment number 42.

    Citing your sources is always good, it helps to establish the credibility and likely biases of those sources.

  • Comment number 43.

    There's always a feeling of doubt when I recall that the BBC is profiling my browsing and gifting the results to AudienceScience in a territory outside the UK.

    Uncomfortable.

    This makes even more uncomfortable reading: https://nodpi.org/forum/index.php/topic,206.0.html

  • Comment number 44.

    I agree with Conor. Links with payments should always be allowed but highlighted so that the opportunity is not missed, or story left half told.

  • Comment number 45.

    Links from a BBC article to third party sites incur many risks. One risk is that when an older BBC article is retrieved, any of it's associated links may be broken or they may link to changed content.

    Rather than linking to external sources, caching original material could be more valuable to those of us who study BBC articles because it upholds information integrity. Such a service might also prove useful to the owners of external material because it preserves and protects their intellectual property.

  • Comment number 46.

    Yes, link, and link to the primary source. Link to the institution or journal homepage as well if you must, but the policy really should be to link directly to the source of the information conveyed by the article so that it’s verifiable. If this requires a subscription, that’s fine — it’s better than no link at all. State the fact that it requires a subscription if you need to, but it’s absolutely paramount that the link is in place.

    @Megan #6:

    Any link can be opened in a new window by holding down Ctrl (PC) or Command (Mac) while clicking on it. Forcing links to open in a new window is rather obnoxious and should be avoided, as it confuses novice users and can’t be overridden in the same way that you can make a link which would ordinarily not open in a new window do so.

  • Comment number 47.

    I'll add my voice to those calling for links to scientific papers, rather than just the journal. Even if it's no use to 99% of the readers, it's important that the link is there, to record what's behind the story.

    Others have also mentioned the DOI scheme, which is probably a good idea. You get a short (although not memorable) URL which should be updated if the paper is ever moved. Almost all journals use DOI.

  • Comment number 48.

    I would like to see the BBC _stop_ mentioning facebook and twitter every five minutes. Why do they get so much coverage? Thanks to the beeb they've become household names!

    Please start covering/linking to smaller independent websites - the big ones don't need the exposure, and we're sick of hearing about them all the time.

  • Comment number 49.

    Here is a perfect example of a missed opportunity:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8577537.stm

    Many games mentioned, yet no links in the related internet links, or links from other news sites...

    Also, the links from other news sites disappears off of a story after a short while. Why isn't this maintained in the archive?

    Ever considered putting links on the index pages out to third parties? After all, that is the natural place for people to navigate on to other materials.

  • Comment number 50.

    45. At 11:54pm on 19 Mar 2010, Glen wrote:

    "Rather than linking to external sources, caching original material could be more valuable to those of us who study BBC articles because it upholds information integrity. Such a service might also prove useful to the owners of external material because it preserves and protects their intellectual property."

    That would actually be breaking their intellectual property copyright, and what happens if the author has to correct an error after the BBC has cached the article, and should the BBC become another web archive when a few well chosen words or phrases from the BBC article will, if available, soon find the via Google etc.?

  • Comment number 51.

    49. At 07:33am on 20 Mar 2010, Ross Heritage wrote:

    "Here is a perfect example of a missed opportunity:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8577537.stm

    Many games mentioned, yet no links in the related internet links, or links from other news sites..."


    Why should the BBC becomes a links farm for commercial websites, and in any case anyone interested in such games can easily find such information - it's another matter finding obscure academic papers that are often buried deep within such sites.

  • Comment number 52.

    Reading through the many comments that many seem to be forgetting (or never realised) is that no two browsers even from the same software company and version will be used/set-up the same and thus no two hyper-links will be displayed the same, in one browser they will be rendered as the page author expected, in another they might become so intrusive that they make reading the actual article difficult, in a third browser they might not even be visible as hyper-links until an event such as a mouse over occurs. It's often been said that 'links want to be links', seen as a different colour and underlined, but I would go further in stating that (unless there is really good reasons otherwise) links should be placed on the web page so that they are obviously navigational links so even if they don't render as expected in the client browser it is still obvious what they are, I would also point out that, in the age of intrusive 'linked-to-word' roll-over marketing where apparent hyper-links are actually advertising links many people now avoid in-line links like the plague

    It strikes me that the BBC needs to decide if it wants to be either a - to use a newsprint phrase - "Broadsheet" or a "Tabloid" publication, do the readers need their hands holding (such as inline 'hot-links') or can they find their way to a (referenced, if needs be) side-box, info-box or footnotes were links and other additional comment might be found, I would point out that the BBC already use side and info boxes without apparent problems.

    [/ramble]

  • Comment number 53.

    Links to homepages, especially of journals, are rarely useful and can be found on Google in about 5 seconds. Deep links would be better, as they are far harder to find and you have already done most of the work. Using DOIs for scientific papers should provide stable deep links, as this is what they were designed to do, and they link to free abstracts and the option to purchase access to the full article (unless you already have a subscription).

    In general, it would be nice to know if a site is behind a paywall before clicking on a link. Hyperlinks as part of the text are familiar, and would allow an easy way to find out more about particular aspects of the story. However, highlighting key links at the end or on the side would also be helpful.

    I do enjoy reading the news from your site, more links would make it even better!

  • Comment number 54.

    If you have a link with "(subscription required)" does that mean it's a free sign-up or a paywall. If I encounter any link with a paywall I won't bother following it so labelling your linkes with "(free sign-up)", "(premium content)", "(payment needed)" is an excellent idea.

    For the PDF hosted on remote servers, you risk causing the "Slashdot Effect" where enough visitors to news.bbc.co.uk (with your adequate bandwidth) flood poor John Doe with his garden shed server. In some cases copying the PDF to your server makes sense. If the PDF is on a *.gov.uk site or somewhere with equal or greater bandwidth than your servers then copying things around is pointless and could result in out of date stuff being left around. I don't think there's one simple answer. If you do pull a copy of a document onto your site then (again following Wikipedia's example) having "(document fetched on dd-mm-yyyy at hh:mm)" makes sense. Then I can determine if it may have expired and if I need to find it's home location.

    I prefer in-line links to the academic paper style numbered references (with a list of links at the bottom). Also if you're linking to a, say, YouTube video, then please use a full "www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqkpqeyMXOE" link rather than a generic "www.youtube.com" so I don't have to hunt for the content you're using or refering to. I also don't need to be told "this article is on a site that is external to the BBC", I'm not stupid I can tell from the URL who owns the item you're linking to.

    I read news.bbc.co.uk every day, I'm using a number of your RSS feeds, on the whole I think this is a well run, well designed, easy to use website. I may not always agree with your editorial content, but that's an entirely different issue.

  • Comment number 55.

    Embedded links would hugely enrich the BBC website - in all areas, News, Politics, Sport, Weather, Learning etc. Articles usually include date of publication, so it to be expected that for older articles links may have disappeared but we can cope with that. Embedded linking should include links to information in other languages, many BBC website users are multilingual and the BBC has employees from many cultures so please can you increase the international aspect too, eg articles about Swiss matters could include references not only from English language sources but also French/German/Italian sources, articles about China could include links to mandarin and other language sources, etc. The BBC website is a great resource and increasing the links will enhance the reader's experience and support many other websites as they fight for survival.

  • Comment number 56.

    May I suggest that reporters be encouraged to link to whatever were their own sources for their story. For proper academically-run sites like journals, deep-linking usually works as they do not often change their internal structure & archive material rather than dispose of last month's issue when the new one is posted. (As do the BBC - excellent when linking to features here for students!)

    As for the 'open on a new page' - thanks Mo for explaining how to do it from your browser (I knew how, but I'm sure some readers will not!).

    Finally, as growing numbers of students use the Internet for research, could we have an authoritative article on how to quote, cite and reference material found online, please? I wrote one at the behest of the Internation Baccalaureate students at my last college and it spread round other departments like wildfire!

  • Comment number 57.

    There are many benefits to linking to actual articles, even if the articles are behind a pay wall:

    Obviously it would help people check stories for themselves, which is good for readers and good for keeping journalists honest.

    It would also help highlight stories that are not, in fact, based on published peer-reviewed evidence.

    It might also, one hopes, put greater pressure on the scientific publishing industry to make scientific research available to the taxpayer. Leaving asides the benefits to society of having research results freely available, it is, after all, the taxpayer who is in many cases paying for the research in the first place and ought to have access to the results.

  • Comment number 58.

    #54

    "I also don't need to be told "this article is on a site that is external to the BBC", I'm not stupid I can tell from the URL who owns the item you're linking to."

    I suspect that a lot of users cannot tell, either through ignorance as to were/how to look or through the behaviour of their browsers behaviour (which they might not have a choice over), this is especially true for inline links (as you can't see the the actual URL by default [1] doesn't automatically mean the links goes anywhere near a BBC server, it's the same human behaviour exploited by Phishing emails...

    Not a problem with academic style (footnote) links here the complete URL can most likely be used but not always.

    It does not harm to point out that links are external.

    [1] typo intentional in case it <code>...</code> didn't render correctly

  • Comment number 59.

    55. At 10:32am on 20 Mar 2010, Nicola wrote:

    "Embedded links would hugely enrich the BBC website - in all areas, News, Politics, Sport, Weather, Learning etc. Articles usually include date of publication, so it to be expected that for older articles links may have disappeared but we can cope with that."

    Can "we" (who is 'we', could someone where English is not their first or even possibly their second language cope?) and then what happens if the original content of a page is replaced with undated content, could "we" cope then, and what will some make of a big fat "ERROR 404: This page cannot be displayed" message, know that it's just that URL or give up completely and start muttering about the useless BBC, getting it all so wrong, same goes for clicking on a link that takes someone to a non English language page - even more so were the browser might start automatically downloading fonts so that it can display the page correctly!...

  • Comment number 60.

    I would like to see deep links. I often find (well, maybe once or twice a week) that a story will catch my interest and I want to know more, so I'm interested in links that are more specific than the story, rather than more general.

  • Comment number 61.

    I like the way the links are in a box to the right of the articles. When reading thru the articles I dislike it when the kinks are in the article. To me it takes away from what I am reading. For science articles It really doesn't matter if it the 'front page' or the article itself as I usually go thru and look at the site afterwards. I have Google Chrome and the ap that puts a flag in the address bar letting me know where the site is located at. Funny how very many of them are based in the USA is it not!?! Must have something to do the the freedoms we have. I do like it when a notice that a registration is required for the link. No surprises that way. I do shy away from most of the Government links as they will be biased opinions from countries that lack the freedoms I am used to.

  • Comment number 62.

    Please link to scientific articles using the DOI system, for example by using the website dx DOT doi DOT org.

  • Comment number 63.

    Re: scientific journal article in particular I'm afraid you're a little behind the times. The DOI (Digital Object Identifier) system takes care of your concerns about links becoming out of date and also links to pre published versions of papers changing. As a journal article versions are updated from pre release to final manuscript, the DOI follows it. It also does this is the URL changes.

    There are many DOI tracking services around which allow you to hotlink to them. The BBC should discuss this with them. One example is http://dx.doi.org/ . If you find out the DOI of the journal article (which is almost universally displayed on online copies of journals) then you simply append this to the URL. So, for example an article with the DOI 123456 has a DOI URL of http://dx.doi.org/123456. This is permanent and will always follow the article, no matter which version and no matter what the true URL.

    Incase you haven't figured it out, I am massively in favour of linking directly to the journal article. Even if there is only an abstract available - this offers huge added value in terms of the extra information on methodology and other results of the study. I appreciate that sort of thing generally doesn't fit well into the body of the main article on the BBC website. Linking to the journal home page almost never makes sense. Linking to the university press release would be useful, although in my view this should be secondary to the link to the actual article. The press releases often offer links to the full article but in an attempt to make more snappy appealing story, they often don't go into the more boring details which I'm interested in. They do however usually add more context to a study which it may not be appropriate to fit into the article proper on thebeeb website.

  • Comment number 64.

    You should absolutely be using in-story links and making them as targeted as possible. Ben Goldacre is right.

    This approach helps to deter the lazy journalism of topping and tailing corporate PR that I sometimes see: if you link to a press release readers can tell whether you're just effectively retweeting the PR or adding journalistic value. (It would be great to see some scepticism of PR-masquerading-as-science.)

    A second plea: more links, less background. Sometimes I read a news story where the news stops after the first couple of paragraphs and the rest of the page is filled with context. It's right to provide this information, but there seems to be an old-media desire to keep each story standalone, as if in print. In some cases this is entirely appropriate (eg obituaries); in others, I feel it would be better to use a timeline approach: each story tells you what's new and links to a (probably auto-generated) timeline giving you the context.

    Good example: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8576870.stm. There's about three or four sentences/paragraphs of fresh information there; the rest belongs on a timeline.

    One reason why this is better: in six months you can place each update in the context of future events, as well as past.

  • Comment number 65.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 66.

    First of all, congratulations on an interesting and thought provoking article. My initial reaction is as follows:

    1. The most important thing is that the user interface of the site remains clean and simple and the user isn't overloaded with information about the link beyond what it is (eg, paid for, summary only, behind a firewall).

    2. Links to source documents (eg, government reports) are the most useful as it will enable the reader to make up their own mind on a story.

    3. Links to other news sites are less useful- I use the BBC because it's authoritative and impartial- why would I wish to downgrade?

    4. Embedding links in the story make it more likely I will follow through as there is no need to hunt for them in the menu on the right of the page.

    5. Finally, deep linking through to the actual page, rather than the front page of a journal/organisation is far more useful as there is no need to hunt for the news story you're interested in.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 67.

    • For scientific papers, should we link to a journal's front page, or the scientific paper itself, or both? If the full paper isn't available, should we link to the abstract in cases where it's available?

    I'd prefer linking to the abstract because less people will have access to full paper. If they do have access, access to the full paper is always available from the abstract page anyway. Definitely don't link to journal front page - if you must, at least provide proper citation details (authors, year of publication, title, volume, issue, page numbers) . Link to the press release in every case as well as abstract.

    • Would you mind if what we link to requires registration to access it? Or if it's behind a paywall, and requires subscription or payment? And would you expect us to tell you that before you got there?

    Not a problem if registration or payment required - that's just the way it works in science world. The abstract can be telling anyway - if it really matters it will end up on net somewhere anyway. I don't think you need to warn people. We are adults after all (and children won't care). If people complain about this, then it would seem unjustified.

    Dr Paul Hutton

  • Comment number 68.

    I hate link-spammers...

  • Comment number 69.

    Links are useful, because they give credit for where a story has come from and allow the reader to investigate the sources for themselves.

    Inline links are fine, but they should not be forced to open in a new window or tab; users can control this with a middle-click or Ctrl-click. It might be appropriate to indicate the nature of external links with different colouring or an external link symbol.

    Overall I would like to see the BBC do more linking.

  • Comment number 70.

    Just to reiterate some points others have already made (mainly in relation to science / health stories):

    Links:

    1. There’s no logic behind linking to a journal front page or a university home page:
    - if the journal paper is accessible for free then far more useful to link to the paper itself.
    - if the paper is behind paywall or not yet published then linking to the journal / university homepage adds nothing other than the superficial sense that the story is genuine / based on scientific authority.

    2. Linking to an abstract is ok. Linking to a specific researcher’s university page would be of some use too, in the absence of anything better.

    3. If paper is behind a paywall, provide the link anyway but indicate this in (or next to) the link so readers without access know whether to bother clicking or not.

    4. If there is a press release then link to it if possible.

    5. Not much point linking to newspapers if they don’t add any more depth. Would be worth linking if a story is covered on a good blog, where more in-depth analysis is provided and still aimed at a non-specialist audience. (e.g. Ed Yong’s Not Exactly Rocket Science http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/ )

    - As an example, your article below from 11th March might have linked to Yong’s more detailed article on the same story from 10th March:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/8561814.stm

    http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2010/03/every_cell_in_a_chicken_has_its_own_male_or_female_identity.php

    Sources:

    1. Explicitly indicate what source the article is based on. E.g. a press release / a conference presentation/ the published paper.

    - Reference the source properly. This isn’t pretentious / overkill - GCSE students have to do this and for good reasons that still apply here. – The reader doesn’t want to have to scour the text to find out what the source is.

    2. I imagine that due to limited financial resources many of your articles are based on press releases. Fine, but being anything other than entirely open about this is irritating to the reader and will result in a loss of trust.

    - Whether you’re comfortable acknowledging it or not, basing an article on a press release does affect the usefulness & reliability of the content of the article, and the reader needs to be able to take this into account.

    - A downside of being open about your source is that people are sometimes going to be (rightly) more sceptical about the accuracy of the article; but that is obviously a very bad reason not to do it – you’re the bbc, not a commercial newspaper, and you should take advantage of this by being more open about your sources.

    3. Regardless of any potential shortcomings of an article, one massive advantage of the bbc website is that you can (as an absolute minimum) aim to be a gateway to a wide range of research that the vast majority of your readers wouldn’t otherwise reach or even know the existence of. Hence the importance of good linking.

    Finally, I think the BBC website is a fantastic resource and it's great that you are asking readers for ideas on an issue like this.

  • Comment number 71.

    Linking is good - that's what the Internet is for!

    Please link direct to the source, where possible; most decent sites thse days do have permanent links. If they don't of course, then front page it has to be. Please never link to sites that require a password / subscription from the text - it is so annoying. If you feel you have to link to such items, then please warn us that the link may be a dead end!

  • Comment number 72.

    In general I think it is better to deep link direct to the actual source when making a link in the body of the article. It is also good to have a other related links on the same page.
    For me all links should open either a new Tab or Window so that you can easily go back to the original page.
    With regards to subscriber only publications such as Journals, the link should be to the Abstract as in most cases these tend to be published with no cost implication.

  • Comment number 73.

    I very rarely click on links. The duty of the BBC journalists is to distil and condense the information from the primary sources, and while they continue to do an excellent job, I rarely feel the need to read the primary sources myself.

    I appreciate the separate links section because it means I can easily see a set of references; something not possible if the links are only embedded in the text and must be discovered serendipitously.

    The BBC site has tremendous value as an archive, and I see it as less likely to modify material, rearrange archives or remove material after the fact. I believe that if the BBC is willing to archive canonical documents AT THE MOMENT of reporting, it should do so, as many sites do not have the integrity of the BBC with respect to published materials. I believe the site should also deep-link to the original, perhaps in some form "Other Web Site [archived PDF]".

    Please do NOT, as has been suggested, do NOT make links open in new windows. This is a most infuriating feature. If I want a new window, I'll use the middle mouse button, and people can ctrl-click. Forcing the feature removes the option from the user.

    Good luck when the digital economy bill goes through. Me, I think China is soon going to be a better bet overall.

  • Comment number 74.

    Replies to the questions in order :
    - Links to source material only, but more please (home page of an artist, official report, etc)
    - Never embed in the story, always on the side. It's a news article with a story, not a reference doc.
    - Whatever possible for scientific papers.
    - Any link to a paying or registered source feels like advertising. Needs to be in a specific, clearly marked box on the right.

  • Comment number 75.

    Simple surely? If the links add value - allowing the visitor to look deeper - I am surprised by the focus on academic and research papers - I would have thought that they were freely available to those interested

  • Comment number 76.

    The problem with linking on the side has always (and I mean always---I've been reading news.bbc.co.uk for ten years now) been that you only find links if you go looking for them. This always seems twice as egregious when the article itself is *about* a website, and then I have to go hunting in the sidebar for the actual link to the website. And sometimes the link labels are not perfectly obvious, and one must think a moment to decide which link to follow.

    While I wouldn't recommend going the Wikipedia route of every third phrase being a link, I do think that in 2010 people are comfortable enough with the idea of linking that it would be appropriate to actually put the links in the text of the article itself, particularly when linking to a website under discussion (when the website itself is the article topic), a document under discussion (e.g. the Pope's recent Ireland letter), or some sort of scientific development. Segregating links into some separate portion of the page has always seemed like wasting some of the potential of a webpage, or trying to shoehorn old-media practices into new-media formats.

  • Comment number 77.

    I was astonished to see BBC reporter at a science conference taking the time to fill out the linking sidebar for a story he was filing. Had always assumed this was the editors' job. I wonder how many readers realize the extra lengths your reporters go?

    The links are one of the major reasons that I prefer the BBC for many kinds of news. One can read the short story on the fly without it being cluttered up by too many links. But, if it matters, one can dig deeper for background at one's leisure. It's a great resource. Many publications that use external links do identify whether they're "pay sites" or "registration is required." It's not an essential, but it's nice to know. Unless I'm VERY interested, I'd rather get the quick, free abstract rather than the pay/register article. You also may wish to poll readers on whether they want external links to open in a separate window or tab. I prefer this, but others may not.

  • Comment number 78.

    One area of improvement, could be possibility of embedding BBC footage, or clips, posted in the BBC website, to the social media, such as facebook.

  • Comment number 79.

    There seems to be an assumption that all links would be in English - but for plenty of topics the most relevant links may be in other languages. What is the BBC's policy re this? If the Newstracker just looks for English words, isn't there policy implicit in that? Is there an expectation that BBC website readers are monolingual English users or that readers are from all over the world and that many have two or more languages?

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    #72. At 6:30pm on 20 Mar 2010, mjmuk wrote:

    "For me all links should open either a new Tab or Window so that you can easily go back to the original page."

    No, opening a new tab or even worse, window, should always be a client made choice, someone using a '10" Netbook' will want different browser activity that someone using a 32" screen as their monitor.

  • Comment number 82.

    76. At 8:48pm on 20 Mar 2010, blahedo wrote:

    "The problem with linking on the side has always (and I mean always---I've been reading news.bbc.co.uk for ten years now) been that you only find links if you go looking for them."

    But not a problem with links placed as footnotes, the natural progression of simply reading the article will mean that the links are discovered, unless one never reach the end of the article of course - but then one is hardly likely to be bothered either way about the links!

    Even better is the 'info-box', which the BBC already use sometimes, all the advantages of inline links without any of the readability, navigation or accessibility issues - links are obvious links, however the page is rendered. The only problem with 'info-boxes' is that there is hardly ever room for raw URLs.

  • Comment number 83.

    @Jim Ronald

    Surely other languages can be offered by third pary sites not funded by the British Broadcasting Corporation?

  • Comment number 84.

    External links are much appreciated because they both show that your quality control works, they give some idea about the basis for your work and they provide additional background and detail when needed.

  • Comment number 85.

    While it seems from the comments that a lot of people are favouring embedding links within the story, I would advise strongly against it. It is true that hypertext traditionally means this sort of linking, but then the origins of hypertext are not in news articles.

    The fact is, embedded links distract the reading process because they are in a different colour than the normal text. You may think of it as insignificant, but it's not. You wouldn't want to read a paper article with random words or partial sentences in blue color either. Of course in that case the colouring would not have a function, but the distraction is just the same.

    Actually, prioritising the efficiency when following external links in web articles over their readability seems to me to indicate that you feel your readers are going to be more interested in the content of those other sites than in that of your story. Not exactly very self confident.

    Don't get me wrong: links are great things and I am fully in favour of linking to related content -- in a separate section as it is now. I wouldn't mind if that section would be expanded with scientific articles or whatnot, that's just great as long as it is relevant to the main article. But keeping it in a separate section a) keeps the article itself easy to read through, b) centralises all the links into one place where they are easy to go through, c) allows for better semantics e.g. for search engines -- you can give the link the same name as the title of the page instead of some random part of a sentence, in the worst case just one general word like "says" or "the article".

    On sites such as Slashdot embedded links may be natural. On BBC News, it is a disservice to all the readers who are mainly interested in the articles themselves.

  • Comment number 86.

    I like having the list of links in the right-hand column even if I do not click through. I do read the link provided itself to get a quick sense of when the other stories were posted, what they were about, etc.

  • Comment number 87.

    I would love to see more links on BBC. Links are the lifeblood of the internet. Having to cut and paste information into Google is one of my few complaints with this site.

    The ideal is to link directly to the article being referenced. I'd say that if you can't do so, it's not worth linking. Linking to flash sites that require a bug hunt to find the article are definitely not worth it.

    Embedded links are preferable to having a side bin. I'd also only want links to items specific to the particular story. Wikipedia-style linking to every noun in the text would be distracting.

    If a site requires registration or has a paywall, a simple, parenthetical note would be fair warning. I'd rather have the option. Links to pdfs should also have fair warning since they tend to be big files and can crash browsers.

    And as long as I'm giving feedback - more maps, please. I'm never going to remember exactly where Ingushetia is.

  • Comment number 88.

    In perspectives, embedded links can serve as good means to skip unnecessary introduction and broaden the subject as needed or necessary without loosing focus.

    In perspectives, the very thing that reader can decide the scope he needs or wants is a good thing. Skip or go…

    At times, the way links are implemented can tempt the reader too, at times they can easily provide (un)expected context or present different points of view.

    In practice, some say that US is getting ready to blast the Iran, others that Obama is deterring Israel from assault.

    In perspective, embedded links can serve as unexpectedly creative tool, one that is unexpectedly kind to reader's discretion.

  • Comment number 89.

    I appreciate the BBC's candor on this issue.

    Regarding science articles and links to Journal publications -- Oftentimes the journal publications are not available to non-subscribers and this becomes an effective dead-end for readers. A link to the author's homepage or institution is probably best.

    Regarding source papers for gov't documents --
    I appreciate having the BBC mirror these documents. I realize that it is a burden for the BBC but it means that access is quick and easy.

    The current format for the links is much preferred -- more complex or involved is not necessarily better --

  • Comment number 90.

    I'm with ben goldacre - the lack of referencing to primary scientific research is a huge problem. Linking to journal front pages is absolutely useless, as is linking to authors' institutions. Abstracts are always viewable by everyone, so you should definitely link to these if not to the article itself. If you're reporting on a paper that's not yet out, then please cite the title, authors and journal so that we can find it when it does come out. If you cited at the bottom of the article then you could link to both the paper for people with subscriptions and something else that's not behind a paywall for others.

    This is absolutely vital - I have often spent ages searching for the paper behind an article. Linking to original material helps make science journalism more accountable and thus hopefully more accurate.

  • Comment number 91.

    Agree with Manahaxar

    Links are the lifeblood of the internet

    Links are the threads that weave the internet into a web.

  • Comment number 92.

    Deep links to original research are helpful and important. Similarly there should be links to laws, court opinions, maps, tutorials, books and other available online sources.

    I don't mind an occasional link to a pay site, but they should be rare and more directly part of the story, not just background information. I am almost never going to use them, so they are clutter to me. I'd like an option to disable them.

  • Comment number 93.

    Although these are not related directly to the issue of external links on the right I thought they may be of interest. I would most like to have a link when there is a report related to a consultation that I might want to contribute to. I feel compelled to stop and search for the consultation there and then instead of being able to browse other news stories, then if I can't find it, the story then becomes meaningless for me. A link within it would mean I can return to the report later when it is more convenient. Second - the most annoying link is the "most popular stories now" when I find the story is 3 years ago. Can these have a date by them so I can avoid old stories or at least are pre-warned?

  • Comment number 94.

    93. At 2:52pm on 21 Mar 2010, lakeylane wrote:

    "the most annoying link is the "most popular stories now" when I find the story is 3 years ago."

    Those links are annoying at all times, just because it's popular doesn't mean that it's worth reading, if it's a story/article worth reading I (and I'm sure most) will find the story anyway, why should I have my attention drawn to a "That's Life" style story of a skate-boarding pig just because a large number of the BBC readership obviously wouldn't know tat from quality if it skate-boarded past their nose...

  • Comment number 95.

    I'd also like to agree with Ben Goldacre and many of the comments here. You can invariably read the abstract of a scientific paper for free, and that in itself can often be very useful. I've tried to follow up articles on your site before and given up in frustration because you only link to the front page of the journal and often don't give enough info in the article to find the original paper within a decent period of time (and without pulling out a sizeable proportion of my hair). Please please please at least link to the PubMed entry, or the abstract page, and let us decide for ourselves whether it's worth paying for! No-one will be charged just to follow the link to the abstract, it's not like you'd be screwing anyone over; and it would be very nice to be able to read more details about many of your scientific stories... I honestly don't care where these links are, as long as they're present.

  • Comment number 96.

    It's really simple. The original source should be /traceable/. That's all that really matters.

    Science has a simple method for doing this. It's called a citation. It's been working for dozens of years, and it tends to work even if dynamic links get broken. I can still look up papers by Bloggs, J. written in 1921 even if the link to the paper fails to work.

    References, with links please, then the broken links aren't the end of the world. And there are accepted formats for citing all sorts of works, including papers that haven't yet been published.

    (And perhaps one or two more science graduates writing the stories in the first place? The BBC is a wonderful organisation but even it falls prey to over-inflation and sensationalising of science stories.)

    Dr Lee Hulbert-Williams

  • Comment number 97.

    Thanks for all the feedback so far. Lots of food for thought. Will post some detailed replies in next few days.

  • Comment number 98.

    On Linking, Google and the BBC

    Google is the de-facto World search engine. Google News collects news stories by subject all day every day second by second.

    Two thoughts arise:

    1. Should the BBC be promoting Google (and doing so without gaining any of the ad revenue)? By persuading web site users to search goggle for more on news stories.

    2. If the BBC includes detailed cross linking in their web site will it not just duplicate Google News?

    I don't pretend to have answers to these questions, but a number of, to my mind, obvious results follow:

    When commercial benefit can accrue from linking to an external web site very careful consideration needs to be given to linking and indeed the news story itself.

    Why should the licence-fee-payer be deprived of potential revenue from click throughs from the BBC's web site? Let us assume that the BBC's web site is a commercial venture: then it is quite reasonable that click throughs should be paid for, just like any other advertising. The web is not like TV - with or without adverts. It is a continuum where the dividing line is indistinct. Just mentioning a product on 'BBC click' for example will be considered 'free' advertising by the manufacturer of the product, but where does is line between 'free' advertising and advertising that should be paid?

    Much discussion has concentrated on citation of academic papers (above) but in a sense this is a simple problem in comparison to the line between commercial linking and news linking and I have not seen much comment by the BBC Trust on this important issue. The issue is important as if we can get a better BBC web service by letting the BBC take paid adverts, rather than getting no revenue from them by 'forcing' users to go to google, where adverts are paid, for then should if not be the case that the BBC should take paid-for links? Particularly where this revenue stream can be used to benefit all licence-fee payers!

  • Comment number 99.

    Two suggestions.

    Sciencedaily.com does an excellent job in summarising the contents of many (possibly a majority) of science papers when they are published; you could also link to those.

    Could you allow PDF’s in comments. Many papers are available online – but in PDF format.

  • Comment number 100.

    Another voice for absolutely not opening links in new windows. I'll decide if I want a new window, thanks. People need to learn to right-click.

    I'm torn about where links should go. Currently, the stories are lovely uncluttered blocks of text, but consequently I never notice or click on the related links because they're in a completely different place. I think inline links should be kept to a minimum and only used for relevant stuff like sources.

 

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