The internet provides an interactive forum for self-expression and allows for the exploration of new ideas. When you publish something on the web it is in hopes of drawing an audience to what you have to say. But one person or organization doesn’t have all of the facts and information, even in their field of expertise–much less in any other topic they may discuss. Luckily for bloggers, we have the ability to link our audience members to other sources of knowledge beyond our own pages. As Jeff Jarvis says: “Cover what you do best. Link to the rest.”
He’s right. He notes that in the past, this was a practice that was looked down upon. Send your readership somewhere else? That’s suicide! has been the general reaction. But the idea of linking people to what they want has been around for years–long before the internet. Just think of that old movie “Miracle on 34th Street” where the Macy’s store Santa started telling parents where they could buy the toy their child really wanted–even if it wasn’t at Macy’s. The manager got angry that the Santa was sending his customers elsewhere. But when he saw the positive feedback he received from customers who appreicated the honesty and caring that Macy’s had for them and their children’s happiness by letting their Santa tell them where else they could get things, the manager realized something: honesty and good information bring people back.
It’s as Jay Rosen suggests in his talk on the “ethic of the link”: “Connect people to knowledge, wherever it is.” And really, linking is the ethical thing to do when done properly. You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but you do have the responsibility to acknowledge that you aren’t, find out who is, and link your readers to them. Let the fact that you were the one who connected your readers to this great source speak for you.
Send people away to what they want and they’ll be grateful. Make this your blog’s policy and your readership will appreciate it. They’ll come back because they will know that yours is the blog to visit, because if you don’t have what they’re looking for you’ll be sure to show them the way to it.