A media consultant, Arnon Mishkin, has a post up at Paid Content supposedly about The Fallacy Of The Link Economy
, where he suggests that those of us (he links to us at Techdirt, for example) who are insisting that aggregators aren't a problem
and that news sites should be happy about getting linked to, are wrong. But he seems to have gotten the basic argument wrong. He seems to think we're saying that the all you have to do is get linked to, and you should be happy.
But that's not what we're saying.
The link is a vote of confidence, but it's just a start. From there, you then need to actually do
something with that link. Mishkin dismisses the value of the link by noting that most people who visit those aggregator sites don't click through. That's not news. That's the way it's always been, but that doesn't mean there isn't value there. On this, I can speak from personal experience. Over the years, we never worked that hard at building our own traffic (we never built a business that depended on traffic), but our traffic kept growing. Any time we were linked to from larger sites, some people clicked through, but we always knew it was a small fraction of the overall traffic to that originator site. But, so what? It's still new traffic that wouldn't have found us otherwise. On top of that, we knew that most of that traffic would visit us just that one time and not think to come back -- but again, that's fine. Because what did
happen is that we started to build up our reputation.
So, no, getting a single site to link to you isn't that meaningful, and won't drive that much traffic initially (or even repeat traffic), but as you build up your reputation, and get linked multiple times in multiple places, and then build up credibility based on your content and your community then
people start to come back. So, getting linked from a certain site once is meaningless. But as we would get linked multiple times, we'd start to notice that then
our traffic would increase. It was a case of that other site helping introduce others to us, not because of a single link, but the combination of being linked to multiple times, along with having good content and good discussions -- and then
people would realize that it was worth visting us regularly (or adding us to their RSS reader or whatever).
It's an ongoing process, but the fact that most people don't click through on a single aggregator link is meaningless. Those people wouldn't have seen the story anyway, but it may help build up the brand of the original site. And, I can assure you, over time, if you keep providing quality, that pays off.
The problem here is that Mishkin and others seem to think the value is in the single atomic story. It's not and never has been. Being unable to view the larger picture and the overall process misses the point. It's not the link alone that has value or the story alone that has value, but the overall process of building a community