How the NY Times turns topic pages into link spam

Topic pages can be a great for news venues and audiences. In my post yesterday to the Knight Digital Media Center’s News Leadership 3.0 blog, I sang the praises of topic pages as a tool news orgs can use to engage communities over time around issues.

Of course, news topic pages can be abused, too.

Today the New York Times (which in many ways pioneered the use of news-related topic pages) offers a classic bad example of spammy links to its own topic pages…

See: Location Services Have Not Caught On, Report Says – NYTimes.com

What’s wrong with this story, which concerns a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project?

It includes lots of links — but ONLY to NYT topic pages and stories.  Ironically, one of these links goes to the NYT topic page on the Pew Research Center — but there is no link to the Pew report being discussed. This kind of abuse reminds me of those horrid green double-underline spam links from Kontera. Shudder.

Such an obvious and significant editorial omission makes the NYT look self-serving and spammy rather than helpful. It also makes web producer Joshua Brustein (who wrote the story) look a bit clueless in the context of online media. It’s unfortunate when brand-building efforts end up actively undermining the brands of news orgs and journalists.

A better approach would be to link to only to topic pages that have the most direct relevance to the story at hand. For instance, did this story really need links to NYT topic pages on Facebook and Twitter? Nope.

Thanks to George Kelly for pointing out this online editorial lapse.

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