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Grumble, Grumble: NYT’s Lazy Linking

Image of a Chain link

Source: Matti Mattilia's Flickr page

Kathy Gill today bemoans the lack of hyperlinks on NYTimes.com.

I’m with her, but to me it seems more like laziness than an overall lack of links.

NYT is guilty of what a lot of journalists-that-are-new-to-the-web are guilty of: linking seemingly random words to seemingly random phrases. For example, linking the word Facebook to Facebook.com, or to a home-brewed topic page on Facebook.

The problem is, NYT’s journalists are not “new to the web;” they’re one of the most visible journalism brands on Earth, and they should do better.

The point of hyperlinks is to offer more context and insight into what’s being reported — to add value. What’s the value in linking the word “Facebook” to your own Facebook’s topic page? Like Kathy says, why don’t they link to a page when they drop the phrase “believed by many”?

Who are these many? How many are there? That would be valuable context for me to have.

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  • It’s possible, maybe, that there might be a technical reason why the New York Times reporters don’t link more.

    The New York Times uses CCI as its writing and design system. At least, I think they’re still using CCI. We had CCI at the Seattle P-I. We had reporters asking for the ability to put links into their copy. That functionality wasn’t built in to the system.

    We were told it wouldn’t be possible to add the linking fuctionality but, after a bunch of coding, we were able to add it. Took a couple of years to figure it out. It worked pretty well but, sometimes, the links failed. If the web editor had time, she or he might be able to fix the bad link but, if they didn’t, the link would be eliminated.

    I don’t know if the New York Times has this functionality. You’d think they would but they might not. It’s a big place and something that seems so simple can prove to be very complicated for reasons both technical and having to do with personnel (Do the web editors have enough time to manually add links?). They may have a script that links to common terms, which is why things like “Facebook” turn into a link.

    If they do have this functionality and just aren’t using it, well, shame on them.

  • This is a good point, actually, and probably another blog post in and of itself. It’s entirely possible that the NYT just has a crappy CMS, which wouldn’t surprise me since so many news organizations have crappy CMS’s.

    I know there are a lot of reasons that crappy CMS’s exist and a lot of them are mostly unavoidable, but it’s too bad because they lead to less-than-ideal web content and are kind of a barrier to entry for less-than-tech-savvy journalists (I mean, if your introduction to hyperlinks was to be forced to hand-code them in to your copy, would you be excited about linking?).