Linked In: Thoughts on Linking and Linking Strategies

In Mass Media 330 we are currently learning about linking, how to link, and what links are appropriate for use on a professional site or blog. The book Online Journalism: Principles and Practices of News For The Web written by James C. Foust is the foundation of what we are learning, and professor Ellen Mrja is also giving helpful tips to us about what is up in the wide world of linking.
There are four types of links that exist according to Foust:

  • Deep Linking
  • Inline Linking
  • Associative Linking
  • Linking to Illegal or Infringing Material

Foust considers the first three to be legal, and the last one as illegal.

Deep Linking is the practice of bypassing a website’s homepage or other introductory material by linking to a page “deep” within the sites structure.  People like to use them to look for specific information, such as a score to a game, while skipping unnessacery or extra pages that precede the wanted page. For example the box-score of the Vikings-Bears this Sunday night is considered to be a deep link. Users and visitors to a website may appreciate deep linking more than the website itself. Deep linking causes users to skip the home page, which in turn can lower advertising revenue, which can be based on home page views. Ticketmaster has sued in the past to restrict deep linking, but courts currently have no plans to limit the practice.

Inline Linking is the practice of placing a copy of an image that belongs to someone else on your web page without actually copying the file itself. Though it is considered legal, it can be problematic because the image is being reproduced without permission of its copyright holder. Inline Linking is different than just placing an image on your site, because it includes a source code to go with it. Adrian Peterson
This excellent image of Minnesota Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson is an example of Inline Linking. Inline Linking is useful because it makes a lot of images available, but Foust maintains one should still try to gain permission before using an image. It is interesting to me that Inline Linking is widely accepted on the internet, yet doing this practice in print media is a very big no-no.

Associative Linking refers to linking whereby the site with the link can affect the reputation of the sites to which it links. Some businesses and organizations prohibit Associative Linking, and have sued to protect their reputation. The Archdiocese of St. Louis sued one site for linking their site on the same page as sexually explicit material. The church won, and its trademark was protected.  The Better Business Bureau is a site that does not allow Associative Linking by its non-members. It believes a link by a non-member would be considered an endorsement of said company. We used another example of Associative Linking in class when we discussed linking to the KKK’s website in a news article, and whether think link was an endorsement or a recruiting tool for the organization. For an Associative Link to be prohibited, a clear and close relationship must exist between the link and the offensive material. For example, since this blog was created in Mass Media 330 here at MSU-Mankato, I will link to the school’s website.

The last type of linking is linking to illegal or infringing material. In most cases the website operator does not possess or post illegal but merely links to a site that does. These links typically have material that infringes on other’s copyrights and trademarks. Currently U.S. courts believe that the First Amendment offers no protection for these links. In an example provided by Foust in our book, a website was ordered to remove it’s illegal link to Hacker Quarterly, which included the technology used to break digital copyright protection. The website substituted other links to Hacker’s Quarterly but was repeated served with injunctions. Obviously any respectable blogger or site operator should avoid illegal links at all costs if they want to maintain a safe and credible website.

My advice to those creating a link is to stop and ask themselves a few questions: Is this link legal or illegal? Is it appropriate for the story or page its linked from? Does the link say your view better than you can, or can you say it better in your own words? These questions can help one formulate and provide quality links to the visitors of your site. I would also advice searching out and finding exceptional links that aren’t just the first thing found on Google, but can help you paint a better picture of what you are trying to convey on your own site.

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