BBC News linking policy (4)
The question of how and when we link from the BBC News website to external sites is something I've posted about here before and I had a go at rounding up the interesting discussion which followed.
From the piece Q&A: The Avenue Verte
Since then, we've done some work on this aspect of our journalism and have recently revamped our guidance to journalists about best linking practice - something one or two others have already spotted and reported on.
The new guidance places more emphasis on good inline linking from news stories. This includes not only backgrounders; in particular, it's about linking directly to the source of a story where possible, such as a newspaper exclusive or a scientific report.
We'll also continue to link to related sites under the sections labelled "Related Internet links" and "From other news sites" (also known as Newstracker), which are now located at the bottom of story pages.
Here's a summary which I have just sent out to our editorial teams, for those who might be interested in our current thinking on this issue:
"Linking to relevant source material and useful additional content is a key part of being a good online journalist. The links we provide, when done well, add value to our reporting. Our objective is to double the number of 'clickthroughs' to other sites.
"There are full guidelines on linking style on the intranet, but they boil down to this:
• News stories - add inline links to the key source, e.g. report, document, newspaper article
• Features and analysis - you can go further and inline link to carefully-selected external (and internal) sources that add value
• Inline links should always make clear where they will take you - for example in this story: 'The study by the Senate Armed Services Committee says this is because contractors often fail to vet local recruits and end up hiring warlords'
• Use Newstracker on all stories - unless editorially inappropriate
"Internal linking - see above, and also:
• Add a mini-hyper [a box linking to our own in-depth coverage] or mini-related stories box on all stories - unless the whole story is very short (e.g. six pars or less) or there really are no suitable links. That's because we want to make the depth we have in our related stories visible near the top of every story, not just at the bottom
• Choose stories or backgrounders that add value when you are adding related stories - not just the latest archived news stories on the same subject, or earlier versions of the same story
"Taking the time to add good links is important, even if it means we produce fewer stories. It is also worth updating a live story with a fresh link if, for example, a key report is published a few hours later. Our aim should be to act as a trusted guide to source material, additional information and further perspectives elsewhere on the web about the stories and issues we are covering."
Looking around the site at our current coverage, there are examples of major news stories with inline links to external source material, including the UK's national security strategy, business support for spending cut plans and a ship hijacking study. Other recent examples include this feature with a range of interesting added links, a review round-up and a backgrounder with a wider range of links to reference material.
Our links in blog posts have always been closer to standard blogging practice; we also have the See Also blog which is dedicated entirely to presenting links from around the web on particular subjects such as Media Brief, Tech Brief and Daily View.
Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.