It was all I could do not to write a headline laced with profanity, such is the depth of my frustration. (My colleagues talked me down.)
Brijit has enjoyed a great run of mainstream media visibility over the past couple of months, by pretty much any standard. We were on the cover of the Life section of USA Today, the lead example in a piece titled “Services cater to our speeded-up lives.” We got a nice mention on MSNBC in a story called “How to dig out from the information avalanche.” And last week we appeared in the April issue of Wired, which identified Brijit as a prime example of “The Human Touch,” one of “nine trends driving business in 2008.” Great stuff for any company, especially a startup like ours. Just one problem: none of these actually linked to www.brijit.com!
Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but these particular masters of mainstream media are killing me. According to Comscore, MSNBC had 28 million unique visitors in January. USA Today’s sites had more than 8 million, and Wired 2 million. These are big brands with big audiences, the kind of audiences that entrepreneurs like me would ordinarily salivate over. If some small fraction of these audiences finds its way to one of these articles, and some small fraction of that fraction clicks through to visit Brijit, and some small fraction of that fraction likes what they see, sticks around, and shares Brijit with their friends, well, that’s a big deal for a site like ours. Which is why it’s so enraging to be written about but NOT linked to.
When we launched late last year, it was a piece by Frank Ahrens in the The Washington Post that brought us to the world’s attention. More than four months later, we continue to see a trickle of referrals from this story. Why? Because on first reference, there’s a link to Brijit. Now, The Washington Post is about as mainstream as mainstream media gets, but they get it. This isn’t complex neuroscience. This is common courtesy. Hell, this is the Golden Rule we’re talking about: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
If you’re a publisher, you want other publishers linking to you. If you’re a reader, you want easy access to whatever it is you want to read, listen to, or watch. It’s pretty simple. So what, exactly, is wrong with USA Today, MSNBC, Wired, and the host of other outlets that still haven’t instituted link-friendly standards? Are they so desperate to keep people on their sites that they’re willing to treat their readers with such disrespect? Do they think not linking is the key to consumer satisfaction? Really?
I know this is well-worn ground. It’s pretty common knowledge at this point that the link is the coin of the realm online. The blog as a medium is built on a foundation that linking is good. So is Google. So is Yahoo!. And so is Brijit. And when Tom Rosenstiel, who supervised The State of the News Media 2008 report for the Project for Excellence in Journalism, goes on Bob Garfield’s On the Media and declares that “your website should be a way-station, a place that can help me get to where I want to go. If it were a dead-end street, a cul-de-sac, it would be less useful to me,” you’d think that everyone was on board.