Should the BBC link more, or think more?

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So the BBC has quoted me. If you think I’m blowing my own trumpet here, you’re right.

The BBC is a big target for PR. If you get a client mention on the BBC, it’s a high point. I worked with the people behind The Box, and while I wasn’t present at the sell-in, it must have been an incredibly exciting time. So I’m slightly excited now. Bear with me, please. I’m just a bit excitable generally.

I didn’t realise the BBC had quoted me until a day later, and in fact I only found out when, on looking for the link address to my post about their viral video, I just typed it quickly into Google instead of browsing to my own blog.

Normally if someone mentions me, I know about it, because it appears on the Feedback section to the left of this page, or I’ll get a notification through the WordPress dashboard. Or, if it’s from a big site, I’ll get a spike in my viewings. If I’d been receiving traffic from the BBC I would expect my page views to go through the roof.

But none of this had happened, which is why it almost passed me by. This puzzled me. Until I realised: whereas they’d quoted me, they hadn’t linked to me.

This is notionally bad netiquette. You really should pass traffic on to people you quote. I try to do that whenever I can. It’s just way you do things. I don’t think this is written down anywhere, but it’s just what you… do.

Was this down to the BBC’s link policy, I wondered? Well I’ve done some searching and it looks like there is a lot of debate over how the BBC uses external links. I guess this is because a link is an endorsement, and the corporation needs to retain its impartiality. Editorial integrity is paramount at the Beeb, to the extent that it refused to show the  recent Gaza appeal, even before Sky News made the same decision.

So while, on the one hand, netiquette kind of sort of maybe implies they should link, on the other, by protecting its independence, the BBC protects its integrity and therefore, value as a media organisation. So it’s an interesting situation: while I would dearly love them to have linked to me, in so doing they may lessen the value of having quoted me.

There is, however, one aspect of all this that I do believe it has overlooked: consistency. If a link is endorsement, so is a quote, and I’m not sure the BBC has been consistent in this. At the top of the article there is mention of David Naylor of Search Marketing – that is, blogger name and company name. Further down the page it quotes Ciaran Norris, of Altogether Digital and below that, mentions Emily Bell, director of digital content for the Guardian. A fellow blogger, Rob Brown, contributor to PR Media Blog, is not referred to as ‘of Staniforth‘, for example.

Is this fair? Why should some companies benefit from the exposure, if not the links, while others do not? Link policy good, editorial policy, slightly shaky maybe?

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7 thoughts on “Should the BBC link more, or think more?

  1. Interesting post.

    I believe the BBC should link all it quotes. Linking does not necessarily correlate to endorsement, it just adds value to content and keeps the reader informed. Is it not law for broadcast to reference the source of its content? So why should the web be any different.

    By not linking it could be argued that the BBC is in disagreement to what is quoted. It should be mandatory to link; not only to ensure netiquette, but also to remain impartial and to apply a consistent standard.

  2. Very good pointer on nettiquette, Brendan. I *think* I link whenever I quote, but will be making sure of it from now on!

    BBC’s a bit cheeky – ‘specially as I knew you were so thrilled by it yesterday!

  3. Interesting comments all. I really did think that, if anyone did comment, they would be supportive of the BBC but it appears not.

    Maybe it’s just another example of the BBC swimming against the tide?

  4. Because of its’ unique position in world media the BBC is or should be a setter of standards. It seems it is falling down here, not so much because it did not link to you per se but because it is showing a woeful lack of consistency.

    If the BBC is going to link, which it mostly does, it should always link, if it is going to mention some company names in an article it should mention all of them. It knows the power it wields and should bestow its’ link love upon all equally – otherwise it is not being impartial and whether by design or by accident this is wrong.

  5. Hi Simon,

    You see, I’m torn. I’m torn because I actually totally respect the BBC. I think they employ absolutely the best people with the highest standards of journalistic integrity. They’re one of the only – if the only – organisations with the mandate and muscle to tell the truth. I don’t think this is naivety on my behalf: I believe that integrity is at their heart, and one of the reasons they’ve agonised over so many of their decisions in recent times.

    Partly, their integrity lies in their editorial judgement, and this resides in their ability to make decisions without pressure from shareholders, but with pressure from the board of governors. So, I can understand why they don’t link. They don’t want to promote people with any mandate. My mandate? As a blogger, as far as they’re concerned, could be anything. We’re in a grey area, where BBC journalism – accountable, professional and world-leading – encounters blogging – non-accountable, on the whole non-professional and individually worth diddly-squat but as a body of voice, fairly influential – and they collide.

    So I’m actually kind of OK with the Beeb not linking to me. But I do think they need to be consistent. They can promote individuals or companies, or both. But I think in my case, they promote me, but not my company, whereas with others – possibly (actually, probably) because they knew the company, and just sort of, well, mentioned them. It’s what I would do, when I post without thinking too much about it. But I’m just a blogger. I don’t have to answer to anybody, really. The BBC should be showing the way. It does, in so many ways.

    If I were the BBC, I would mention some people, and some companies, but not all at the same time. And whether or not that’s right, it’s inconsistent. I’ve probably been very inconsistent in the past, but I’m just some guy running a blog. The BBC needs to show the way. I’d love to follow their guidelines, and be a better blogger.

    In fact, as I did with Virgin Media, here’s a challenge. Hey, BBC! Tell us bloggers what we should be doing to be better bloggers. Tell us how we should be citing and quoting and linking. Because I think most of us respect what you’re doing and would love to know.

  6. You make a point that I’ve been thinking of making for a while, regarding the etiquette of linking.

    I think that your point regarding the name-check is slightly less strong as it’s pretty obvious what they’ve done: Emily Bell was probably directly contacted for her quote, and so was obviously going to have her job title included. Dave’s quote, and my own, were taken from our company blogs, where the company names are obvious, hence the references.

    This blog is, as you say yourself, your personal one and doesn’t mention any company name in the logo or header. Neither does Rob Brown’s. If you want people to mention your company name when quoting your posts, write them on your company blog.

    With regards to the linking, whilst I can’t say too much about it I do know that people at the Beeb are very aware of the issue and looking into what would be the right thing for them to do.

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